England surrendered a yawning advantage to South Africa on a manic second day at Trent Bridge.
The hosts, hoping to consolidate here after their wide-margin win at Lord’s, will have to do so the very hard way after being bowled out for 205 to concede a first-innings deficit of 130 in this second Investec Test.
South Africa then extended their lead to 205 with a stumps total of 75 for one, as a curiously serene late passage of play broke the mould and yielded a solitary wicket in a daily tally of 15.
James Anderson added just that one further success to his first-innings five for 72, having kickstarted the cameo appearances – which continued almost throughout under cloudy skies – by taking four for four in 16 balls as South Africa mustered only 26 more runs to be bowled out for 335.
Joe Root (78) then responded to the early loss of both England openers with a 40-ball half-century. But his and Gary Ballance’s all-Yorkshire counter-attack did not last long enough, before Keshav Maharaj (three for 21) and Chris Morris (three for 38) restated South Africa’s supremacy in a home innings which lasted only 51.5 overs.
On a pitch already providing variable bounce for the seamers, particularly from the Radcliffe Road end, England were therefore facing a mission improbable to somehow escape Nottingham with their series lead intact.
Six wickets fell in under 10 overs before lunch – and Root then reached his 50, in under an hour, with his ninth four three balls before lunch.
Anderson began an apparently unstoppable chain of events with the wicket of Vernon Philander, and he also did for Morris – the pair who had frustrated England in a partnership of 74 on Friday evening.
Gloomy morning conditions under lights played into Anderson’s hands as he continued his wonderful record at this venue.
It took him only five deliveries to have Philander caught in the off-side ring off a leading edge, without addition to his overnight 54.
In his next over, a second successive wicket-maiden, Maharaj was well-caught at second slip by Root.
Morris then closed the face and got a leading edge back to England’s all-time record wicket-taker, who completed South Africa’s slide when Morne Morkel was last out – edging an expansive drive behind to Jonny Bairstow.
The change of innings did nothing to halt the spate of wickets.
Philander went straight to DRS when he got one to straighten back into Alastair Cook in the fourth over – and although an inside-edge precluded lbw, it instead resulted in another caught-behind via the pad.
Morkel made it two in two with the first delivery of the next over – a very good one, and a third dismissal in succession caught-behind with Keaton Jennings the latest victim.
At a crisis point of three for two, the onus was very much on Root and Ballance.
Root put pressure back on the bowlers with three off-side fours in one Philander over, and Ballance was good enough to quickly follow the example set in a stand of 83.
But he was gone straight after lunch, bowled via an inside-edge and pad as he pushed forward to Philander’s first delivery of the session.
Root shared another half-century stand with Bairstow until he paid for one shot too many at Morkel and edged an attempted drive behind.
England had effectively targeted third seamer Duanne Olivier, but there was an important success for slow left-armer Maharaj when Ben Stokes went for an 11-ball duck – inside-edge on to pad, and Quinton de Kock doing well to readjust his timing for his fourth catch of the innings, from gloves up to shoulder and back again.
Bairstow went too, just before tea, bowled off-stump by Maharaj on the forward-defence to a very good ball that drifted in and then turned sharply.
Morris quickly grabbed a double share of the spoils in early evening.
He pushed Moeen Ali on to the back foot with a series of short balls, then had the left-hander poking to cover when he pitched one up at the start of his next over, and was on a hat-trick after DRS confirmed Stuart Broad’s golden duck – lbw deep in the crease.
Liam Dawson’s mis-sweep at Maharaj meant England had lost three wickets stuck on 199, but they at least scrambled past 200 before Mark Wood was last out to Morris when he fended a catch to second slip.
South Africa were soon minus Heino Kuhn, edging Anderson low to second slip – and only after his departure for a third single-figure score in his four Test innings to date, did the clatter of wickets abate at last as Dean Elgar and Hashim Amla prospered in 14 curiously uneventful overs.