England tightened their grip on the third day of the first Test at Kingsmead on Monday against a South African team weakened by an injury to fast bowler Dale Steyn. England built on a first innings lead of 89, reaching 172 for three in their second innings at the close of play, an overall lead of 261 runs.
With plenty of time remaining in the match, England were prepared to grind out their runs with risk-free batting in the second innings, scoring at just over two-and-a-half runs an over on a slow, dry pitch which made fluent stroke play difficult. Joe Root made 60 not out off 109 balls, while first innings top-scorer Nick Compton survived two dropped catches before being caught down the leg side by wicketkeeper AB de Villiers off Morne Morkel for 49.
Both Compton's chances were off Morkel, who also had Root dropped by a leaping De Villiers on six. Dean Elgar carried his bat for South Africa, making a fighting 118 not out, but he had minimal support from his team-mates as the hosts were bowled out for 214. Stuart Broad and Moeen Ali took four wickets each for England.
South Africa suffered a blow early in the second innings when Steyn left the field with a right shoulder strain after bowling two balls of his fourth over. He returned soon afterwards and bowled three balls of the 21st over, almost forcing Nick Compton to play on to his stumps, before crying off again. He went for a scan and was off the field for a lengthy period before returning to the field at the late afternoon drinks break. He did not bowl again.
Steyn, who missed most of a recent series in India with a groin injury, took four for 70 in the first innings in his first match appearance since November 5. Off-spinner Dane Piedt took the first two wickets in the second innings, trapping England captain Alastair Cook leg before wicket for seven before having Alex Hales caught at long-on for 26. The left-handed Elgar batted resolutely for more than six hours while his team-mates struggled, reaching his fourth Test century off 211 balls, with eight fours and a six. He did not add to his boundary count before running out of partners after facing 246 deliveries.
Elgar was the sixth South African to bat unbeaten through a Test innings. Fellow left-hander Gary Kirsten was the most recent to perform the feat before Elgar, making 100 not out in a total of 239 against Pakistan in Faisalabad in 1997/98. Broad followed up his three wickets on the second day with an early breakthrough on Monday, bowling Temba Bavuma off an inside edge with the second ball of the morning, without addition to the overnight total of 137 for four. Broad had figures of four for 25. Ali took two wickets in successive overs, dismissing JP Duminy and Kyle Abbott, as South Africa crashed to 156 for seven before Steyn helped Elgar add 54 for the eighth wicket.
England, first innings, 303
SA, first innings (overnight 137-4)
S. van Zyl b Broad 0
D. Elgar not out 118
H. Amla c Bairstow b Broad 7
A. de Villiers c Bairstow b Broad 49
F. du Plessis b Ali 2
T. Bavuma b Broad 10
J. Duminy c Stokes b Ali 2
K. Abbott c Taylor b Ali 0
D. Steyn c Woakes b Ali 17
D. Piedt c Bairstow b Finn 1
M. Morkel c Root b Finn 0
Extras: (b4, lb3, w1) 8
Total: (81.4 overs) 214
Fall of wickets: 1-0 (Van Zyl), 2-14 (Amla), 3-100 (De Villiers), 4-113 (Du Plessis), 5-137 (Bavuma), 6-150 (Duminy), 7-156 (Abbott), 8-210 (Steyn), 9-214 (Piedt)
Bowling: Broad 15-6-25-4, Woakes 14-1-28-0, Ali 25-3-69-4, Finn 15.4-1-49-2, Stokes 9-1-25-0 (1w), Root 3-1-11-0
England, second innings
A. Cook lbw b Piedt 7
A. Hales c Abbott b Piedt 26
N. Compton c De Villiers b Morkel 49
J. Root not out 60
J. Taylor not out 24
Extras: (b3, lb3) 6
Total: (3 wkts, 64 overs) 172