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Tail-end assault puts England on course for series win

South Africa, needing a win to level the series, were 11 for no wicket in reply at tea.

England's Joe Root (2ndR) appeals unsuccessfully as England's Ben Stokes (L) looks on during the second day of the fourth Test cricket match between South Africa and England at the Wanderers Stadium in Johannesburg on 25 January 2020. Picture: AFP.

JOHANNESBURG - England took a big stride towards securing a series win when they posted a first-innings total of 400 on the second day of the fourth and final Test against South Africa at the Wanderers Stadium on Saturday.

South Africa, needing a win to level the series, were 11 for no wicket in reply at tea.

England's total was built around three big partnerships.

The first two, 107 for the first wicket between Zak Crawley and Dom Sibley and 101 for the fifth wicket between captain Joe Root and Ollie Pope, were compiled by recognised batsmen.

The final big stand was for the last wicket, between Mark Wood and Stuart Broad, batting at numbers 10 and 11.

It was swashbuckling batting as Wood (35 not out) and Broad (43) put on 82 off only 50 balls, hitting seven sixes between them.

The Wood-Broad stand was devastating for South Africa as England turned a respectable total into one which could well put the match out of reach for the hosts, who have yet to make 300 in an innings in the series.

South Africa need to win to square the series, but even if they bat well, they could run out of time in a match already hit by rain, with more possible over the remaining three days.

South Africa's bowling, with the exception of Anrich Nortje, was largely toothless.

Nortje bowled tirelessly at high pace and took five for 110, his first five-wicket haul in Test cricket.

He dismissed both Pope for 56 and Root for 59 after the pair had dominated the first hour of play, adding 66 runs to England's overnight total of 192 for four.

Thanks largely to Nortje, England were reduced to 318 for nine. Then came 41 minutes of mayhem as Wood and Broad indulged themselves against some mediocre bowling.

In contrast, South African openers Dean Elgar and Pieter Malan could score only 11 runs in 12 overs before tea as they made a cautious start.

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