Durban (South Africa): England moved swiftly to a big win over the top-ranked team in test cricket on Wednesday, sweeping aside South Africa's last six batsmen in a 241-run victory in the first test.
Spinner Moeen Ali trapped AB de Villiers lbw for 37 in the first over of the last day, and England accounted for South Africa's struggling batting lineup for 174 in its second innings. England took six wickets for only 38 runs in 24 overs on the fifth day to be completely dominant at the end at Kingsmead.
Chasing a first series win over South Africa in more than a decade, England took a morale-boosting lead in the four-match series, with the second test in Cape Town to follow on Saturday.
"Pretty good test match," England captain Alastair Cook said. "The lads played pretty well to be honest with you ... a pretty pleasing five days."
England set the Proteas an almost unreachable target of 416 to win, or four-and-a-half sessions to survive for a draw. South Africa never came close.
"Not a good Christmas, that's for sure," South Africa coach Russell Domingo said. "We didn't play half as well as we can."
Quick bowler Steven Finn finished with 4-42 and Ali 3-47 in the second innings to complete England's dominance in Durban. Ali had seven wickets in the match.
England's batting was also far superior, making 303 and 326 compared to South Africa's two poor totals of 214 and 174. England's significant victory was only its second win in its last 16 tests away from home, and places it perfectly for a strong showing in the second match of a four-test series in just three days.
"Let's not get too carried away, but it would be great if we could get our noses ahead in that game and continue to put pressure on South Africa," Cook said.
The speed with which England dispensed with the Proteas on Wednesday morning was astonishing, and underlined the doubts hanging over the world's No. 1 team, which has struggled through most of 2015 and will lose its top ranking if it loses this series.
England's big win in Durban had repercussions beyond just this match, with South Africa likely to lose top fast bowler Dale Steyn to injury for the Cape Town test and the makeup of the rest of the team generally unwell. De Villiers, South Africa's best player, said this week that he is struggling with fatigue, the Proteas' batsmen are badly out of form and were exposed again by England, and there are murmurs of unrest in the squad because of selection policies.
South Africa captain Hashim Amla hinted Steyn would likely miss out in Cape Town because of his right shoulder problem, but said any other possible changes to the misfiring lineup he would "leave to the selectors."
England had been ahead for most of the game after making 303 in its first innings and bowling South Africa out for 214, but the tourists stamped a big early mark on the series in a ruthless spell on Wednesday morning.
Under bright blue skies, and with no possibility of rain saving South Africa, Ali got one to straighten to De Villiers with the third ball of the day. De Villiers tried and failed with a TV referral, and after that early boost, England went on to roll out three batsmen for two runs at the start of the fifth day. Counting Faf du Plessis' dismissal late on Tuesday, the England bowlers went on a rampant run to take seven South African wickets in the space of 38 runs.
Ali had Temba Bavuma stumped by Jonny Bairstow for a duck and Finn bowled Steyn, smashing a full-pitched ball into his stumps. Stuart Broad removed Morne Morkel lbw for 8 to end the game, sealing England's first win in the opening test of an away series against a major test team since it won the first match of the 2004-05 series in South Africa. England went on to win that series.
"It's always nice to start well," Cook said.
England1st innings: 303 all out in 100.1 overs (Nick Compton 85, James Taylor 70; Dale Steyn 4-70, Morne Morkel 4-76).
South Africa 1st innings: 214 all out in 81.4 overs (Dean Elgar 118 not out, AB de Villiers 49; Stuart Broad 4-25, Moeen Ali 4-69).
England2nd innings: 326 all out in 102.1 overs (Jonny Bairstow 79, Joe Root 73, Nick Compton 49; Dane Piedt 5-153).
South Africa2nd innings (target: 416): 174 all out in 71 overs (Dean Elgar 40, Steven Finn 4-42, Moeen Ali 3-47).