South Africa v England, 4th Test, Centurion, 5th day January 26, 2016

Red-hot Rabada routs feeble England


South Africa 475 (De Kock 129*, Cook 115, Amla 109, Stokes 4-86) and 248 for 5 dec (Amla 96, Bavuma 78*) beat England 342 (Root 76, Cook 76, Moeen 61, Rabada 7-112) and 101 (Rabada 6-32) by 280 runs

Kagiso Rabada completed a dream sequence with 13 wickets in the match as South Africa thumped England by 280 runs in the final Test at Centurion. England won the series 2-1, and can claim the bragging rights, but South Africa have their first Test win in 10 outings and evidence that the future is not necessarily as bleak as has been suggested.

South Africa's victory was a convincing one, a splendid recovery after their defeats in Durban and Johannesburg. Most pride of all will come in the feat of Rabada, only the third South African to take so many wickets in a Test, following Makhaya Ntini and Hugh Tayfield. He finished with 13 for 145 in the match, pronouncing that he has the capability to become the inspiration in South Africa's attack for many years to come.

From the start of their innings, England's task was to try to bat long and hope that South Africa's attack fell apart in front of their eyes. Kyle Abbott was carrying a hamstring, Rabada had borne a heavy workload and the unpredictability of Morne Morkel meant that he might go haywire if left to carry the pace bowling alone. With only three seamers, backed by the offspinner Dane Piedt, their threat might be neutered, even on a surface of variable bounce.

It all proved a hollow theory. Little went right for England for the outset. They lost three wickets in 21 overs on the fourth evening and capsized completely on the final morning, their last seven wickets disappearing for 49 runs in 13.4 overs. It is fair to suggest that they made no concerted attempt to save the match.

This enterprising England side is a batting line-up of great extremes, committed to a positive approach which can produce thrilling cricket but which also comes close to an abdication of responsibility in times of hardship.

There was talk among spectators of Cape Town 2010 when England began the final day three down and saved the match at 296 for 9 thanks to plucky backs-to-the-wall resistance from Ian Bell and Paul Collingwood. From the moment that Joe Root edged his first ball of the day, from Piedt, past the flailing gloves of the wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock that possibility seemed non-existent. In Centurion 2016 they did not even quite make it to the first drinks break.

South Africa had shrewdly given the first over to Abbott - an on-field fitness test in an attempt to gauge the level of his contribution for the battle ahead. One trundling over was enough to indicate he was unlikely to be a figure of heroic deeds.

Morkel replaced him and struck with his sixth ball, making the ball rear sharply at James Taylor who fended to the keeper. Bounce is one of Morkel's greatest assets and he has always felt he could expose a player as short of stature as Taylor: this was how he imagined it would be.

Root was not attuned to the challenge. Shot-making has become central to his game as he has become one of the most prolific No. 4s in Test history, but there seemed little reason to be tempted into a drive at Piedt in the following over, the resulting edge flying to first slip.

Jonny Bairstow avoided a pair; Ben Stokes needed strapping around his chest after being struck by Morkel. Both were committed to attack. England had a chancy feel about them. Bairstow managed to get out twice in successive balls. Rabada overstepped for the first, as Bairstow hacked at a wide outswinger to be caught at slip, then the batsmen edged again, a more conservative push this time, de Kock taking the catch.

The daftest shot fell to Stokes - the Man of the Series, often an inspiration with bat, bowl and in the field, but daft all the same as he pulled a short one from Morkel to deep square leg. More than any other England batsman, attacking cricket is in his nature, but he had been suckered.

And so it went on. Another go-down-guns-blazing swing of the bat, this time from Chris Woakes, another wicket for the silky-smooth Rabada. In his next over, Rabada rounded things off with wickets in successive balls, Stuart Broad beaten on the drive and James Anderson lbw first ball to a leg stump yorker. What a Test he has had. What expectations, at only 20, he must bear.

"Sometimes what you say makes no difference," said Alastair Cook. "We are nowhere near the finished article." He sounded like a captain whose speech had fallen on deaf ears. As England posed happily for the team photo, series victors, there should have been some guilt mixed in with the deserved celebrations to follow.

David Hopps is a general editor at ESPNcricinfo @davidkhopps

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Anantha on January 28, 2016, 1:57 GMT

    I like to follow the English team. They are good but not super human like Waugh's or Ponting's Aussies or Lloyd's WIndies. That means the tests are never going to be one sided, at least in the first innings. And hitherto even tests are turned on their heads by sudden inspired performances like Stokes's and Broad's. And they will lose at least one test every series and sometimes lose the series as well. They are good for cricket. Next Ashes down under will be a lot more interesting...

  • David on January 27, 2016, 20:33 GMT

    Gowers_Great_Tiger_Moth_Flyby - how does a 2-3 greatly assisted by two doctored wickets rate as humiliation - now a 5-0 loss that is humiliation, especially if it happens twice in 8 years ................................

  • Clad on January 27, 2016, 14:48 GMT

    @burn_addict @EllaGingio. I will try & explain (took a long time to type so hope it gets posted)... What I was saying was that although much is being made of SA having Steyn & Philander missing, England also had Mark Wood missing, who England would consider one of their frontline bowlers (he sometimes takes the new ball with Anderson AHEAD of Broad). I was then saying that in my opinion he is as good as Philander, but not as good as Steyn. My justification for this is quite simple. Philander had a great start to his career, but in the last year or so Mark Wood has been arguably BETTER than Philander. If you look at the last 8 Tests played by both on statsguru, Mark Wood has taken 25 WICKETS AT AN AVERAGE OF 34.4, and Vernon Philander has taken just 14 WICKETS AT 33.21. Therefore you can see, that England also had quite a large gap missing in their seam attack. Plus the fact that Anderson missed a game and so did Finn.

  • subhasish on January 27, 2016, 14:31 GMT

    Burn-addict@ mark wood at the moment very new to test cricket yet to cement his spot in the team wood can't compare with styne and philander both styne and philander are world class bowlers as a team u miss world class bowlers not new bowlers mark wood talented bowler but still lots to prove in test cricket

  • Keith Waters on January 27, 2016, 9:37 GMT

    @BURN_ADDICT- could you please explain how mark woods stats/performances are as good as philanders? And yes Philander is a front line bowler for SA he's Steyns opening partner! It would be like England missing Anderson and broad for the whole series! However saying that England played very well and deserved their victory congratulations are in order to them!

  • Jason on January 27, 2016, 8:52 GMT

    @it_happened_last_in_2001, To be honest Aus fans are just the same, when England won end of series games in the 1990's against the great Australian team we were being told it doesn't matter we won the series.

    The thing to remember is that this same writer was 'bigging' up this England team in the last couple of articles following on from the 3rd test, now its all doom and gloom, despite there only being one change to the team line up.

    All fans know England at the moment are inconsistent but they are becoming more and more consistent with each series, Even great teams like the WI's and Aus went through the same period.

  • Sen on January 27, 2016, 8:50 GMT

    @SIMPLYTHEBEST... ON JANUARY 26, 2016, 13:44 GMT

    Eh... you're the one who used the example of Steyn, not me! -->

    "And to all those who like to use the absence of Steyn/Philander as an excuse, England also had a frontline bowler missing the entire series through injury - Mark Wood. " Or are you saying Philander is SA's "frontline bowler" as you put it?

    And I've seen Woods stats in Tests. You're right: they're as 'good' as Philander.

    "Just ask Australian or Pakistan batsmen! Sounds like you are not up to date with England cricket."

    Who else should I ask? SA, IND, NZ...?

  • Robert on January 27, 2016, 8:32 GMT

    Just so typical from the England selectors. Why can they not make correct decisions. Compton is clearly not good enough and neither is Woakes. How on earth they didnt pick Footit when he has been carrying the drinks for a month I'll never know. They had the perfect chance to take a look at him and they bloody blew it. Our selectors are so frustrating sometimes.

    I think we have got away with this series tbh. Now imagine if SA had a fully fit seam attack of Steyn, Philander, Morkel and Rabada. I think it would have been a different result. But then you can only beat what is put in front of you...

  • Jason on January 27, 2016, 8:09 GMT

    Englands biggest mistake was picking Woakes to replace Finn in the final test, we need a bit of variety and in a dead rubber it should have been a done deal to play Footitt.

    However losing the final test meh, there were a few bright spots, Stokes, Bairstow and Root leading the batting averages. Stokes starting o gain confidence in his Bowling,

    Taylor and Compton have at least earn't places for the start of next summer,

    The down side, we're still searching for an opener as the Hales experiment has largely failed, and need a dedicated spinner.

    SA have diamond in the making for Rabada if hes managed well, but we often see a player have a break out series then fall by the wayside, Philander being the one that springs to mind.

  • Shanti on January 27, 2016, 6:39 GMT


    You are absolutely right. I had been posting for quite some time, that our big neighbour India can do the same, which you are suggesting to SA, by having bowlers like our Dushmantha Chameera definitely & Dhammika to some extent.

    Good luck to SA. Unlike your prediction, I think, the ash-holders will bite the ashes from the assault of Rabada. I wish we can lend our Chameera to assist Rabada!

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