NOTTINGHAM, July 17 (Reuters) - South Africa took four quick wickets to close in on victory and level the series, after England’s top order crumbled on the fourth morning of the second test at Trent Bridge on Monday.
By lunch, England were 79-4, having lost Keaton Jennings, Gary Ballance, captain Joe Root and Alastair Cook to Vernon Philander and Chris Morris, who took two wickets apiece in conditions that were easier than the first three days.
Jonny Bairstow was not out on 12 with Ben Stokes on five, with England a nominal 395 runs short of their victory target.
England began the day on 1-0 with the almost impossible job of either scoring another 473 runs to win or batting two days to save a test that was rapidly slipping from their grip.
But their hopes of pulling off a world-record run chase did not survive the second over when Philander uprooted Jennings’ off-stump with the opener on three.
The early wicket left England looking beaten and Ballance was next to go, an lbw on review, playing back to a ball from Philander that kept low for four.
Both Jennings and Ballance will find their positions under pressure after contributing just 44 and 85 respectively in four innings this series.
England’s last flickering hope rested with their talisman Root, but despite looking in positive mood he too departed before lunch, bowled for eight by a yorker from Chris Morris.
With England reeling on 55-3, Cook was left to salvage some sort of respectability. The former captain looked the only batsman possessing the discipline and technique to survive for an extended period but, on reaching 42, he was bounced out chasing a high ball from Morris that flicked off his gloves to wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock.
England lead the four-match series 1-0. (Writing by Neil Robinson; Editing by Christian Radnedge)