England forced a dramatic 189-run victory over South Africa late on day five of the second Test in Cape Town to level the series at 1-1.
With the tourists still needing three wickets in the final hour, the man of the match Ben Stokes claimed them all to cap a stunning all-round performance.
He removed Dwaine Pretorius and Anrich Nortje in consecutive balls before dismissing Vernon Philander to secure the win with just 8.2 overs remaining.
The Proteas looked to be grinding their way to a draw, with opener Pieter Malan making a superb 84 off 288 balls on debut before Rassie van der Dussen and Quinton de Kock resisted for almost 34 overs.
England’s attack was also limited with all-time highest Test wicket-taker James Anderson missing most of the last two sessions because of injury.
But De Kock slapped a long hop from Joe Denly to mid-wicket to fall for 50 and Van der Dussen, who spent 140 balls over his 17, flicked Stuart Broad to leg gully.
England’s chance of victory was boosted but they still needed Stokes to seize it, the all-rounder finding seam movement and bounce in a devastating spell to secure the tourists’ first win at Newlands since 1957.
The third Test of the four-match series starts in Port Elizabeth on 16 January.
Stokes had a majestic 2019 – he starred in England’s World Cup final win, led his side to a remarkable one-wicket win over Australia at Headingley in the Ashes and won BBC Sports Personality of the Year.
After a tough start to this tour for Stokes, whose his father Ged spent Christmas in intensive care in a South African hospital, and for England in general, the Durham all-rounder has ensured a spectacular start to 2020.
In his final spell, Newlands finally looked like a real fifth-day pitch, Stokes finding a pace and bounce to have Pretorius and Nortje caught in the slips – the latter of a fine juggling effort by Zak Crawley – before Philander fended a brutal ball to Ollie Pope.
It was a vital intervention in the absence of Anderson, who was excellent in his opening spell, pinning Keshav Maharaj in front and troubling Faf du Plessis, who would have been out lbw to Anderson too but England failed to spot the ball had hit the skipper’s pad before his bat.
With five wickets still needed in the final session, Anderson tried two overs but was clearly not fit and England needed others to step up.
Broad went first, getting Van der Dussen to glance a leg-side delivery to Anderson, who had been moved into that position after the previous delivery, before Stokes’ brilliant late surge.
England was comfortably beaten by 107 runs in the first Test and failed to capitalise on a strong position in the first innings here, needing Pope’s enterprising 61 not out to at least post a competitive total.
Yet the tourists were much improved from that point on, putting in comfortably their best bowling performance of the winter to dismiss South Africa for 223 and claim a 46-run first-innings lead.
The top order then batted with the patience that has been lacking in recent years, with opener Dom Sibley compiling a sublime 133 not out, to lay a platform that allowed Stokes to blast a magnificent 72 off 47 balls and set up the declaration.
England may have had the best part of five sessions to bowl South Africa out, but the pitch had slowed and flattened out and the obdurate hosts had Du Plessis and Philander, who have experience of saving matches in similar situations.
So to force victory in this fashion was hugely encouraging and gives England coach Chris Silverwood a welcome first win of his tenure.
The hosts were never interested in chasing down a record 438 for victory and showed great resilience for much of days four and five.
Opener Malan, making his debut at 30, was particularly impressive and could only be undone by a superb delivery from Curran.
But ultimately batsman error cost the hosts, with Du Plessis coaxed into sweeping Dom Bess straight to Denly by England putting a fielder in at the silly point and Van der Dussen playing at a ball he could have left.
De Kock made the worst mistake and looked horrified as he slowly dragged himself from the field after falling to part-time leg-spinner Denly.
Yet the hosts showed impressive fight to hopefully indicate there are two close Tests to come.
And in a week of much debate about whether Tests should become four days, Cape Town delivered a five-day thriller.
‘What an advertisement for Test cricket’ – what they said
England all-rounder Ben Stokes: “It’s why five-day cricket should always be around. It’s the best form of the game.
“We have three members of the group who are 21. The future looks great for us. We showed an outstanding amount of character.”
England captain Joe Root: “It was a brilliant performance by the whole group. We showed a great amount of character, patience and a lot of belief. Credit to South Africa – they threw a lot back at us and made it difficult.
“You can put Ben Stokes in any situation and he will stand up for you. He plays 100% for the team and is a brilliant role model for all of the guys coming through.”
South Africa captain Faf du Plessis: “What an advertisement for Test cricket. It’s sad to be on the losing side. All I asked for was a team effort and we fought hard. There has to a winner.
“Credit to England, they had a little bit more in the tank than we had.”
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Source – Sport365coza