Sam Curran believes England’s plan to choke South Africa’s run-rate was the key as a flurry of late wickets handed the tourists the initiative in the second Test.
The English attack had precious little to play with in Cape Town, mustering a thin-looking 269 all out after winning the toss at Newlands, but exerted collective control throughout day two to restrict the reply to 215 for eight.
Stuart Broad and James Anderson did the early damage, leaving the Proteas 40 for three, and a surge of activity in the evening session yielded five for 58.
England have made it known they were annoyed at the way they allowed the game to accelerate while they were in the field in last week’s defeat at Centurion and have quickly addressed any shortcomings. South Africa this time scored at a gentle 2.53 per over and saw out 19 maidens.
“I think we bowled really well as group today, we kept the rate down all day,” said Curran, who bagged the dangerous Quinton de Kock and the resilient Rassive van der Dussen after tea.
“I thought we reaped the rewards towards the end. We may have got no wickets through the middle session but we knew they would come if we stuck at it.”
A key part of England’s tactics was the off-spin of Dom Bess, who was not selected for the original touring squad and only arrived as cover for the unwell Jack Leach.
Having impressed the coaching staff in practice he was handed his third Test cap and performed a solid holding role which allowed him to pin down an end for 27 overs and even tempt tops-scorer Dean Elgar (88) into a rush of blood.
“I thought Bessy did an amazing job for us the whole day,” said Curran.
Elgar offered a colourful account of his dismissal, but acknowledged it as a likely turning point.
“I felt I played him very well until the brain fart – a big one – then I was sat in the changing room. That all it is,” he said.
“It wasn’t anything to do with patience. I might have just chosen the wrong ball. I hit him for four a few overs before – great shot wasn’t it? – but I picked the wrong one.
“I could have blocked it out, blocked out the over and been not out over night, we’d have been totally in control, but I’ve yet to see someone master this game.”