Ben Stokes produced the crucial double strike to set England on course for a three-day thrashing of South Africa at Emirates Old Trafford.
England romped home in the second LV= Test by an innings and 85 runs – an even bigger margin than the one they lost by in similarly crushing fashion last week at Lord’s – as they flattened the tourists for 179.
And it was captain Stokes who once again proved his inspirational all-round qualities, following up his fine century on day two with a long spell of bloody-minded brilliance with ball in hand.
Fourth-wicket pair Keegan Petersen and Rassive van der Dussen had successfully sucked the heat out of England after a strong start from the hosts, blocking their way in a determined stand of 87 in 261 balls.
With inspiration in short supply it fell to Stokes to break their will as he removed the pair in quick succession to end their 43-over rearguard. His decisive moment came in the middle of a draining 14-over stint either side of the tea break, as flogged himself for the cause and came up trumps.
With his work done he tossed the new ball to James Anderson and Ollie Robinson, who finished things off in a blaze of glory by taking the last five wickets for just seven runs in the space of just 30 deliveries.
Robinson, on his comeback appearance after seven months away, pocketed figures of four for 43, while Anderson picked up three for 30. The 40-year-old’s haul saw him surpass Australia’s Glenn McGrath as international cricket’s most prolific fast bowler across all formats, taking his combined tally to a remarkable 951.
With the comfort of a 264-run first-innings lead behind them, England made a rousing start to the day with three cheap breakthroughs in the morning session.
Anderson got things moving in emphatic style by upending the off stump of visiting captain Dean Elgar for 11. Elgar is renowned as his side’s most durable batter but his hopes of a long stay ended with a classic Anderson set-up, nipping one away off the pitch before following with one that tailed back in and squeezed past the left-hander’s defences.
Robinson settled into a searching spell of his own and was rewarded when Sarel Erwee pushed at one that climbed off the pitch. Buoyed by scoreboard pressure, England were in total control and it did not take Stuart Broad long to join the hunt. He thought he had Aiden Markram for a duck but his brilliant delivery, and the outside edge that followed, were rendered moot by a marginal no-ball.
The off-form Markram barely profited from the let off, managing just six before aiming an errant drive at Broad. A collapse appeared to be in the offing but Petersen and Van der Dussen successfully slowed things down as they put their faith in solid, watchful defence.
They safely set a course for the lunch interval and then stifled England throughout a wicketless afternoon session, during which just 53 were added to the total. With Jack Leach’s left-arm spin unable to create any real danger – his 23 overs cost only 26 runs but generated minimal drama – Stokes decided to throw himself into the fray.
He had briefly sparked concerns over his troublesome left knee while making a century on day two, but he banished those concerns as he hurled himself into a draining but decisive shift from the Brian Statham End.
After six overs of short stuff at the end of the afternoon’s play, during which he failed to spot a thin edge from Van der Dussen, he continued at the start of the evening session and it proved a masterstroke as he ripped out both set batters in the space of 10 deliveries.
Van der Dussen (41) was guilty of nothing more complicated than a loss of focus, returning after the break in play and chasing his third ball. Stokes hung it well outside off stump and found just enough away swing to turn a careless wave of the bat into a simple catch for Ben Foakes.
With his partner gone, the weight on Petersen’s shoulders doubled but Stokes took care of him for 42 with a brute in his next visit. Finding the same shape through the air but this time with more bounce and a tighter line, he had Petersen recoiling in a failed attempt to get his bat out of the way.
Foakes snapped up another chance, Stokes pumped his fists in satisfaction and the crowd roared their approval. When a fresh Dukes became available he tossed it to Anderson and Robinson, who ruthlessly scattered the tail.
Anderson fizzed one into Simon Harmer’s off stump with his second ball back in the attack and made short work of Kagiso Rabada, with Robinson doing the rest as Keshav Maharaj, Anrich Nortje and Lungi Ngidi lined up to be shot down.