After stirring tributes before play to commemorate the Queen at the Kia Oval, Robinson’s Test-best five for 49 and Broad’s four for 41 left South Africa in a heap, all out for a meagre 118 in 36.2 overs.
Only five batters got into double figures and just two reached 20 as England’s fast bowlers capitalised on just enough movement under leaden skies, but out-of-form openers Alex Lees and Zak Crawley failed again before Ollie Pope (38 not out) and Joe Root (23no) took England to 84 for two at tea.
Pope was particularly fluent on his home ground as England went in excess of five an over to put themselves firmly on top.
This LV= Insurance series decider has been reduced to a three-day affair following Thursday’s washout and Friday being called off as a mark of respect, with South Africa refusing to budge from their original itinerary of returning home on Tuesday, ruling out the prospect of the match being extended.
But South Africa were obliging guests with the bat, having been inserted 48 hours earlier, to raise England’s hopes of a sixth home win this summer, something they have not achieved since 2004.
Ahead of play was a carefully orchestrated commemoration of the Queen, with the players entering the field through a military guard of honour followed by a minute’s silence and the national anthems of both teams as the crowd joined in the rendition of God Save the King before bursting into applause.
England settled to their task quickly, led by Robinson, continuing to open the bowling alongside James Anderson. Consistently on a nagging length, his first spell yielded figures of 8-3-21-4, making the breakthrough in his first over by sending Dean Elgar’s off-stump cartwheeling away.
South Africa’s hesitation at facing Robinson was emphasised by Keegan Petersen shouldering arms to a delivery only to lose his off-stump. In between, Anderson, playing his 175th Test, drew the edge of Sarel Erwee and a diving Ben Foakes completed the first of four catches.
Broad was in the wickets column in his first over as Ryan Rickelton nicked off and Kyle Verreynne and Wiaan Mulder were snared by Robinson either side of the drinks break of a frenetic session. While Verreynne was faultless in edging behind, Mulder unwisely chased a wider ball and feathered through.
Mulder’s tame dismissal left South Africa teetering on 36 for six but Khaya Zondo (21) and Marco Jansen (30) offered some timely resistance to briefly frustrate England. Broad ended the 36-run union just after lunch as a rising delivery caught the shoulder of Zondo’s bat and looped to backward point.
Jansen, dropped twice on 21 within the space of four balls, unfurled a couple of classy drives off Robinson, who had his revenge and a third Test five-for by inducing a thick edge into the cordon.
Broad took the last couple of wickets before Lees signalled England’s intent by taking 13 off his first five balls. However, the sixth from Jansen, controversially left out at Emirates Old Trafford, sailed through Lees’ gate and castled him.
Crawley made a stodgy five from 34 balls before being trapped on the crease but England’s adventurous approach continued, with Pope peppering the boundary rope and Root proving a useful foil to leave England just 34 runs behind at the tea interval.