South Africa beat England by 107 runs in first Test

South Africa bowler Kagiso Rabada is congratulated after taking the final wicket
South Africa bowler Kagiso Rabada is congratulated after taking the final wicket

England failed to complete another mission impossible as they bowed out of 2019 with a 107-run defeat in the Boxing Day Test against South Africa.

Scorecard - South Africa win by 107 runs

South Africa first Innings: 284 all out (de Kock 95; Curran 4-58, Broad 4-58)

England first Innings: 181 all out (Denly 50; Philander 4-16)

South Africa second Innings: 272 all out (van der Dussen 51; Archer 5-102)

England first Innings: 268 all out (Burns 84; Rabada 4-103, Nortje 3-56)


Report

England failed to complete another mission impossible as they bowed out of 2019 with a 107-run defeat in the Boxing Day Test against South Africa.

The tourists arrived at Centurion's SuperSport Park harbouring hopes of another improbable victory and a record chase of 376, channelling memories of their World Cup final win at Lord's and the Ashes miracle at Headingley, but found themselves all out of escape acts.

Even Ben Stokes, the starring act in both of those dramas, could not find it in himself to defy cricketing logic one more time.

Against a spirited, talented and united South African attack they were bowled out for 268 late on the fourth afternoon to go 1-0 behind in the four-match series.

Romantics and superstitious fans would have found brief hope in Stokes' arrival at the crease with 218 runs needed to win - the exact figure required when he strode out at Leeds in August - but his departure for 14, bowled by the left-arm spin of Keshav Maharaj was the biggest body blow of all.

Rory Burns top-scored with 84, only seven of which were made on Sunday, while captain Joe Root contributed a committed 48, but the momentum never really left the Proteas.

Kagiso Rabada claimed four for 103, Anrich Nortje three for 56 and there was sound support from Vernon Philander, Maharaj and Dwaine Pretorius.

Burns had methodically chipped 77 runs off the target on day three but South Africa applied the squeeze at the start of the day, allowing just two scoring shots in the first seven overs. The first was a thick outside edge from Joe Denly, who then caught everyone by surprise by thrashing Rabada for six.

Burns found it harder to loosen the shackles, taking 34 minutes to open his account for the day and only then with an overthrow from short-leg that should have seen him run out. The Surrey man brought about his own demise, impatiently pulling Nortje and offering the gentlest of catches.

Denly was unabashed and picked up a second six in risky fashion off Rabada, who would have been celebrating a wicket had Nortje not completely lost sight of the trajectory. Denly had bustled his way to 31 when he was thumped on the pad by Pretorius, who won a tight lbw decision upheld by DRS.

His departure brought Stokes to the middle and with him a bristle of expectation around the ground. There was nothing flashy about his early moments at the crease, settling in beside Root to usher England to lunch with 205 still needed.

From 121 for one they had scored just 50 for two but as long as their two leading lights were in tandem, hope remained.

Root was having the rougher ride, wearing nasty blows on the glove and wrist, but was sticking to the task and located the ropes at third man and midwicket to keep the board moving.

England made their move at the start of the afternoon session, first nudging the target under 200 then going after Maharaj.

His first delivery after lunch was swept emphatically for four by Stokes, who proceeded to skip down the track and carve the left-armer over cover. By the time Root chopped a short ball past point England had taken 13 from the over and asked fresh questions of South Africa's nerve.

Maharaj took it on himself to provide the answer himself, finding a good length outside Stokes' off stump and extracting enough turn to make life difficult. Stokes looked for his cut shot but was beaten, losing off stump after the ball skimmed glove and pad on its way through.

The celebrations of the fielding side suggested the heavy lifting was now done, a notion Jonny Bairstow did little to dispel. After clipping Rabada's first delivery with the second new ball off his pads for four he wafted at the next as it left him off the pitch.

A thick outside edge flew towards Zubayr Hamza, who made it safe before tumbling backwards. Nortje landed the big one when he returned to the attack, finding Root's edge with pace and precision in the channel outside off.

That kicked off a sequence of five wickets for 36, with the innings wrapping up in unedifying fashion for the tourists. Nortje had Jofra Archer caught at slip and Rabada scattered the rest of the tail, winning his duels with Sam Curran and Jos Buttler then flattening Stuart Broad's stumps to draw the curtain on proceedings.

Reaction

England captain Joe Root reflected during the post-match presentation: "It's been a really tough week off the field. Pretty much everything has been thrown at the group.

"We had 10 guys go down ill throughout the week, but credit to everyone, they stood up, tried to put in the best performance and at no stage have they let anyone down.

"It's not been long since we've seen similar chases from a very similar group of players. We got ourselves in a position, even at lunch when it was me and Ben and it was pretty much the same as it was at Headingley a few months back.

"We were fully confident we could chase those runs down, we just knew it would take one or two reasonable partnerships and we needed to negotiate the new ball very well."

Root felt England's first-innings collapse was central to their defeat.

"That's where the game was won and lost," he said. "It's really disappointing but in the same sense it's really pleasing to see us very quickly put in a better performance in the second innings."

On the positives he would take into the second Test, Root said: "I think pretty much everyone has been ill now, so hopefully that's out of the way! Hopefully that's the end of it and we can bounce back strong."

England head coach Chris Silverwood told Sky Sports: "It was a difficult challenge but we came here with high hopes. We were backing ourselves, as we always do, but we knew it was going to be a challenge as well.

"To score that many runs on the wicket with everything else that's gone on was going to be hard work, but we backed ourselves."

Defending the decision to bat second, Silverwood added: "When we got here the wicket was a little bit damp and we suspected it would do a little bit with the new ball, which it did.

"We suspected that days two and three would be the best days to bat, when it would deteriorate. As it turned out, day three was the best day to bat.

"It was a game plan that we had. We looked at the wicket and it's a direction we decided to take."

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