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 Rassie 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 successive overs at the start of the evening session.
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 30 deliveries.
Jimmy beats world
James Anderson - 951
Glenn McGrath - 949
Wasim Akram - 916
Shaun Pollock - 829
Stuart Broad - 802
Anderson added another fast bowling record to his collection with a nip-backer that sailed through the gate of Simon Harmer before clattering into off-stump. It was his 950th wicket in the three forms of international cricket, taking him ahead of Australia great Glenn McGrath to the top of the all-time list for non-spinners. Only Sri Lanka’s Muttiah Muralitharan (1,347), Australia’s Shane Warne (1,001) and India’s Anil Kumble (956) are ahead of Anderson, who soon had his 951st victim and 100th against South Africa when he found the edge of Kagiso Rabada’s bat in England’s charge to a thumping victory.
There was much focus on Robinson in his first Test in seven months, having endured various injuries and ailments as well as scrutiny on his overall fitness – which was publicly questioned during last winter’s Ashes. But there was no sign of any drop-off in intensity and he was the pick of the bowlers with four wickets on Saturday. There may still be tougher challenges to come but this was a heartening return for a bowler with a spectacular average of 20.93 after 10 Tests.
View from the dressing room
When you are bowling with the older ball when nothing is really happening, you have to create your own energies and own theatre around that. It’s something I’ve done over my career with the older ball, just to try and run in and hit the wicket as hard as I can and try and make something out of nothing. Then let the new-ball bowlers take the rewards at the end
England’s tails will be up after such a comprehensive victory but they will have a fortnight to wait for the series finale. South Africa, who will be without Van der Dussen because of a fractured left index finger, must regroup quickly.