Tea England 84 for 2 (Pope 38*, Root 23*) trail South Africa 118 (Jansen 30, Robinson 5-49, Broad 4-41) by 34 runs
Both England openers fell cheaply to Marco Jansen – also South Africa’s top-scorer – who fired a fuller ball into the top of Alex Lees’ middle stump and then had Zak Crawley out lbw for a laboured 5 off 33 balls, the batter’s decision to review reeking of desperation as replays showed he was plumb.
On a day that was emotionally stirring and physically scintillating in equal measure, the match got underway following Thursday’s washout and Friday’s pause following the death of Queen Elizabeth II.
With only three days to play, the national anthems were finally sung – movingly without musical accompaniment by Laura Wright – including the first rendition of “God Save the King” at a sporting event since 1952. Then play commenced in slightly more batter-friendly conditions than when Ben Stokes won the toss and opted to bowl first 48 hours earlier.
You wouldn’t know it, however, as South Africa lost five wickets inside the first hour, three of them falling to Robinson and one each to Broad – who still managed to extract plenty of movement in both directions to trouble the batters relentlessly – and James Anderson.
But it was the lines and lengths of the three England seamers that did the damage early on as the tourists’ selection shake-up aimed at shoring up their batting flopped.
Jansen topped their scorecard with 30 after being overlooked for the second Test, which South Africa lost by an innings and 85 runs at Old Trafford, having earned a recall due to Lungi Ngidi’s hamstring niggle.
Broad saw Jansen dropped twice – by Ben Foakes behind the stumps and Pope at fourth slip – but surprised Khaya Zondo with a back-of-a-length delivery that went straight to Lees behind point to put South Africa at 72 for 7. Robinson then claimed his fifth when he had Jansen comfortably taken by Root at first slip.
Broad struck again with another shorter ball, Keshav Maharaj dragging his attempted pull onto his stumps, before Broad had Anrich Nortje caught by Stokes at extra cover.
Earlier, Robinson, who came under criticism for his fitness levels at the end of England’s ill-fated Ashes tour last winter and subsequently spent seven months out of the Test side after a series of health and injury problems, had been the architect of South Africa’s collapse.
His third ball – the eighth of the match, to remove South Africa captain Dean Elgar, was a gem – on a length and shaping in as Elgar played around it only to see his off stump go cartwheeling.
Anderson struck next over, drawing an outside edge from Sarel Erwee with a length ball outside off that moved ever so slightly away from the batter, who sent a catch straight to Foakes.
Robinson then clipped the top of off stump as Keegan Petersen left a fuller one, and then had Kyle Verreynne caught behind for a second-ball duck with an excellent length delivery that moved away off the pitch slightly and found the outside edge.
In between, Ryan Rickelton, playing his third Test – and first since April – after being brought in to replace the injured Rassie van der Dussen, had just started to settle when Broad lured him into a drive and had him caught behind for 11.
The visitors had brought in Wiaan Mulder for the first time this series, locked at 1-1, but he provided Robinson’s fourth wicket – and Foakes’ fourth catch – when he chased a full, wide ball that swung away late to leave South Africa at 36 for 6.
Zondo, chosen to play after Aiden Markram’s struggle for form prompted yet another change, remained not out at the lunch break, as did Jansen. The pair put on a stand of 36 for the seventh wicket, easily the strongest union of South Africa’s innings, but they needed so much more.