Vernon Philander led a relentless South African bowling performance before England fought back on the second day of the first Test at the SuperSport Park on Friday. Philander took four for 16 in 14.2 overs as South Africa appeared to have taken control by bowling out England for 181, a first innings lead of 103. But England struck hard at the start of the second innings.
South Africa were 72 for four at the close, an overall lead of 175 on a pitch which has proved difficult for batsmen throughout.
Philander, 34, who has announced he will retire from international cricket at the end of the four-Test series, produced a masterclass of control to complement the strike power of fast bowlers Kagiso Rabada (three for 68) and Anrich Nortje (two for 47).
Wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock equalled the South African Test record by holding six catches, a feat which had been accomplished six times before — on four occasions by new head coach Mark Boucher.
Joe Denly hit a half-century for England after a shaky start. He shared in partnerships of 55 for the third wicket with captain Joe Root (29) and 72 for the fourth wicket with Ben Stokes (35).
Denly was dropped on nought and took 28 balls to score his first run as Philander had an opening spell of one wicket for no runs in five overs. But Denly survived the initial fast bowling storm and gradually asserted himself to make 50 off 111 balls with nine fours.
England collapsed, however, after Denly was caught behind off an inside edge to give all-rounder Dwaine Pretorius his first Test wicket.