Cricket

Mark Wood’s nine-wicket haul wraps up 3-1 England win

England 400 (Crawley 66, Root, 59, Pope 56, Nortje 5-110) and 248 (Root 58, Hendricks 5-64) beat South Africa 183 (de Kock 76, Wood 5-46) and 274 (van der Dussen 98, Wood 4-54) by 191 runs

Nine wickets for the match to Mark Wood propelled England to an emphatic 191-run victory and 3-1 series triumph against South Africa inside four days at the Wanderers.

Wood’s conquering of adversity – and England’s for that matter – on this tour gives them huge cause for optimism, but the hosts’ view of what lies ahead remains obscured by mountains every bit as imposing as their 466-run target for victory in this match.

While England could enjoy the return of one of their key strike weapons to his best and the emergence of several youngsters with decade-long careers beckoning, South Africa’s rebuilding prospects have been hit by structural turmoil, issues with depth and low confidence, which has to be near rock-bottom after losing two consecutive home series for the first time in 70 years.

Wood, playing back-to-back Tests for the first time since 2017, claimed a rare double by contributing 53 runs and nine wickets to play a pivotal role in the result and be named Man of the Match in an incredibly popular choice given his battle to even be playing here.

Wood added 4 for 54 to his first-innings 5 for 46 – the second five-wicket haul of his Test career – as England comfortably accounted for the home side in the end, despite some resistance in the form of Rassie van der Dussen, who fell two runs shy of his maiden Test century and put on a 92-run stand with Faf du Plessis for the third wicket.

As straightforward as England’s win ultimately was, the Test was not without tension with du Plessis becoming involved in an altercation with several England players, which included him making physical contact with Jos Buttler that could land him in hot water with the match referee. That was after the retiring Vernon Philander was fined 15% of his match fee as his verbal conflict with Buttler spilled into a second chapter.

With uncertainty remaining over du Plessis’ Test future and Philander playing his final international match, South Africa stand to lose experience with only the greenest of green shoots appearing.

While van der Dussen’s display with the bat, reaching his third half-century of the series in just his fourth Test, Beuran Hendricks’ five-for on debut and Anrich Nortje’s five-wicket haul in England’s first innings should all have given South Africa hope – and they may yet prove to – the overwhelming feeling was that there is just so much work to be done.

In contrast, England were led by the likes of Man of the Series Ben Stokes, Joe Root and Stuart Broad offering a nurturing core to youngsters Ollie Pope, Dom Sibley, Zak Crawley and Dom Bess, the latter missing from this side which boasted a five-pronged pace attack. And with James Anderson, Jofra Archer and Rory Burns to return from injury, the depth is there that South Africa seem to be lacking.

It was Archer’s absence, only settled on during the warm-ups in the first morning in Johannesburg when he aggravated an elbow injury, that brought Wood to the fore.

Despite concerns over his ability to back-up after Port Elizabeth, his first match in six months, Wood produced in consecutive innings at the Wanderers, too.

South Africa openers Pieter Malan and Dean Elgar started strongly enough, negotiating the first hour without worry. It was Chris Woakes who made the breakthrough after drinks when he tempted Malan to send an outswinger to Stokes at second slip. Elgar was out in similarly soft fashion, spooning a return catch to Stokes.

Du Plessis and van der Dussen then came together, sparking South African hopes of reaching a fifth day, but it wasn’t all smooth sailing for the pair with van der Dussen withstanding a testing spell from Woakes and du Plessis getting into that heated exchange after he was struck by a ball thrown in from the outfield.

Du Plessis fell first for 35 to a Stokes delivery that kept low and ricocheted on to his stumps off the toe of his bat. Having been hit on the chest by a Wood bouncer, van der Dussen was dispatched two runs short of his hundred a short time later when his attempted drive popped up to Broad, who was stationed for the catch at short extra cover.

Broad sent down a gem to the recalled Temba Bavuma, who gloved the ball to Buttler behind the stumps and walked despite the umpire looking unmoved. Once Broad had Dwaine Pretorius caught cheaply hooking to deep backward square, Wood was back in the game.

Wood had Philander out, strangled down the leg side for an anticlimactic end to his final Test, drew an all-too-typical smash from Quinton de Kock who found the safe hands of Woakes at mid-off and then another leg-side strangle dismissed last man Nortje after Hendricks had been run out.

England’s struggles with illness at the start of the series, when a virus affected most of their touring party, and the 107-run loss in the first Test seemed so long ago as they looked towards their tour of Sri Lanka in March with the luxury options of resting players, further exposing the newer ones and picking their squad to suit the conditions. South Africa, meanwhile, must surely be asking, “Where do we go from here?”

Article source: http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci/content/story/1214505.html?CMP=OTC-RSS

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