England sets South Africa target of 416 to win 1st test
DURBAN, South Africa (AP) England ground South Africa down with half-centuries by Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow to set the home team an almost unreachable target of 416 to win the first test on Tuesday.
Root made 73 and Bairstow hit a rapid, attacking 79 from 76 balls to take England to a second-innings total of 326 all out soon after lunch on the fourth day in Durban.
South Africa was 65-1 at tea and a long way from safety after Ben Stokes bowled Stiaan van Zyl.
With victory highly unlikely, the top-ranked team in tests needed to survive for more than four sessions and about 140 overs to save the game. That also appeared to be way out of South Africa's reach, especially after England bowled South Africa's struggling batting lineup out for only 214 in 81.4 overs in the first innings.
South Africa has never made more than 370 in the fourth innings of a test at Kingsmead and only one team – England in 1939 – has made more than 400 batting last. In terms of a draw, South Africa has only once batted for 140 overs or more to save a test, in Australia in 2012.
The loss of Root and James Taylor for 42 fairly early on Tuesday barely affected England. And while England applied the pressure, South Africa had to make do without injured fast bowler Dale Steyn for the rest of the match at Kingsmead.
The tourists built partnerships all the way through their second innings: 73 between Root and Taylor, 71 between Root and Nick Compton, 48 between Bairstow and Moeen Ali, and 43 between Bairstow and Chris Woakes.
Root passed 50 for the 13th time in 26 innings in 2015, but missed the chance to convert that to a fourth century this year when he sent a top edge to slip off Kyle Abbott. Taylor charged offspinner Dane Piedt and was stumped. Between their dismissals, Stokes fell for 5 trying a reverse sweep as England went on the attack after a cautious approach on Monday.
Bairstow sent a big slog-sweep for six over square leg early in his knock to keep England forging ahead, and hit nine fours and three sixes in all. He was caught in the deep by J.P. Duminy off part-time bowler Van Zyl, who claimed three late wickets.
By then England was already way ahead and was now expected to win.
South Africa's position was weakened further by the absence of Steyn, who failed a pre-play fitness test in the morning after straining his shoulder on the third day. Steyn wouldn't bowl for the rest of this game and faced more tests on his right shoulder ahead of the second test in Cape Town, which follows quickly on Saturday.
Offspinner Dane Piedt took 5-153 for South Africa in England's second innings, but his success will have also given England and its spinner Ali encouragement when they bowl last at the Proteas on a four-and five-day-old pitch in Durban.
Stokes made the first breakthrough, beating Van Zyl with a quicker ball to send him back for 33 and cut short a briefly troublesome 53-run opening partnership with Dean Elgar.