England 400 and 248 (Root 58, Hendricks 5-64) lead South Africa 183 (de Kock 76, Wood 5-46) by 465 runs
After his first match in six months at Port Elizabeth, Mark Wood had the aches and pains to show for it, but perhaps not the stats. On Sunday, he marked a memorable weekend – one that so nearly didn’t happen – with ink on paper as well as, no doubt, the inevitable twinges of a fast bowler, only masked by that broad, affable grin of his.
Wood’s perfectly serviceable figures of 0-31 off 11 and 3-32 in the third Test were made ever sweeter by his excellent cameo with the bat, which yielded 42 runs off just 23 balls in England’s only innings as they romped to a massive victory, and the fact he had not played since suffering a serious side strain during the World Cup final in July.
By all accounts desperate to back-up in Johannesburg, despite the fact he hadn’t done so since 2017 and that he pulled up considerably sore after his previous match, Wood ended up playing – he may well not have, had Jofra Archer not aggravated his elbow injury in the warm-up minutes before the fourth Test started – and how.
Wood’s contribution in Port Elizabeth was so much more than the five sixes he struck, the sharp catch he took and the three wickets he claimed as he hit the pace that makes him such a weapon, intimidating as well as damaging. But in adding his second five-wicket haul in Tests to his unbeaten 35 off 39 balls in an 82-run partnership with fellow tailender Stuart Broad at the Wanderers, Wood added the stat – the cherry on top – to a pivotal performance.
And he had to bat again, adding 18 off 11 balls before walking across his stumps to be bowled by Dwaine Pretorius in the closing stages of the day, the ninth England wicket to fall. England set South Africa 466 to win when Joe Root was out on the last ball, caught brilliantly by Faf du Plessis for 58 to give Beuran Hendricks a five-wicket haul on debut.
Wood already had three wickets in the bag when South Africa resumed on a teetering 88 for 6.
After Chris Woakes accounted for Vernon Philander, caught by Broad on the fifth ball of the day, South Africa put up some resistance via Quinton de Kock and Pretorius in a 79-run stand for the eighth wicket. Ben Stokes ended up making the breakthrough when he had Pretorius caught by Zak Crawley at gully for 37 off 73 balls.
De Kock failed to convert the big score he had threatened, falling for 76 off 116 to a beautiful ball from Wood that trimmed the top of middle stump and shattered the leg-side bail.
It became a mater of time before South Africa were all out and they were soon enough, when Wood had Dane Paterson caught behind by Jos Buttler to claim his fifth and send the hosts to lunch with a deficit of 217 runs at 183 all out.
England opted not to enforce the follow-on and their new opening pair of Crawley and Dom Sibley posted their third consecutive stand of 50+ runs.
Philander, playing his last international match, limped off after bowling just nine balls, in the third over of the innings. He was sent for scans on his hamstring and did not return but Hendricks stepped up, claiming 5-64 off 15.3 overs.
More to follow