Durban (South Africa): Stuart Broad rattled South Africa with three wickets as England had the world's top-ranked team 137-4 in the first test at stumps on Sunday.
After England posted 303 all out in its first innings at Kingsmead, Broad removed opener Stiaan van Zyl and South Africa captain Hashim Amla early in the home team's reply. He returned to claim the prize wicket of AB de Villiers for 49 late on the second day.
England led by 166 at stumps and had South Africa in a vulnerable position in Durban with its two best batsmen — Amla and De Villiers — out.
"It was nice to hit that rhythm but I'll have to do it again tomorrow," Broad said.
Opener Dean Elgar was 67 not out and the key for South Africa on the third day with England eyeing a first-innings lead and a significant advantage at the start of the four-test series.
De Villiers hit seven fours and a six and was driving South Africa's recovery from 14-2 and Broad's first two strikes. But Broad forced an edge behind to wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow with a superb seaming-away delivery, and England edged ahead.
"I think AB was taking the game away from us slightly," Broad said. "He's got that ability."
When offspinner Moeen Ali bowled Faf du Plessis, England was clearly in control at 113-4.
Broad finished the day with 3-16. Elgar and the inexperienced Temba Bavuma, who was 10 not out, took South Africa carefully to the close.
"I think we forget about the scoreboard," South Africa's Morne Morkel said. "That's the best thing for us to do, and just play the best batting cricket we can."
It could have been even better for England after the dismissal of Van Zyl with the second ball of the innings, when he chose to leave a delivery from Broad that clipped his off stump.
Amla was dropped by Bairstow on two, although that mistake didn't cost England much. South Africa's No. 3 fell to a nick off Broad and a catch by Bairstow after adding just five more runs.
De Villiers also had a second chance when on 11. He sent a low catch to Ben Stokes in the gully, who claimed the dismissal after diving forward and cupping his hands under the ball. Australian TV umpire Bruce Oxenford ruled the ball hadn't carried. England's fielders didn't agree, and Broad said the England management thought it was "100 percent out."
De Villiers threatened to make England pay, gathering momentum in an 86-run partnership with Elgar in the late afternoon before Broad's third wicket — and his most important — halted South Africa again. Broad celebrated exuberantly as De Villiers trudged off.
Earlier, England lost its last six wickets for 129 at the start of the day after being 179-4 overnight. The tourists expected to make much better progress with their deep batting lineup.
Nick Compton frustrated South Africa — his country of birth — for more than six hours over two days for his 85 from 236 balls. But hit by a four-wicket burst by fast bowler Morkel, which included Ali and Chris Woakes off successive balls, England needed lower-order rallies from Bairstow and Broad to take it past 300.
Bairstow hit 41 from 56 balls with six fours as wickets fell around him. Broad made a belligerent 32 not out in a last-wicket partnership of 36 with Steven Finn. South African quick bowlers Morkel and Dale Steyn finished with four wickets each.
England's first total of the series, mediocre at first glance, looked a much more impressive score after South Africa's troubles on a pitch that neither team has been able to completely work out.
"We always seem to say the next hour is very important. But tomorrow morning is a big first hour," Broad said. "We need to make early breakthroughs and get a big first-innings lead."
England 1st 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: 137-4 after 52 overs (Dean Elgar 67 not out, AB de Villiers 49; Stuart Broad 3-16).