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England leads South Africa by 264, on course to level series

CAPE TOWN, South Africa (AP) — England owned Day 3 of the second test from the first ball and built an imposing 264-run lead over South Africa with six wickets still in hand on Sunday. Opener Dom Sibley was 85 not out as England ground down the South Africans by batting for the entire third day at Newlands, except for four overs at the very beginning, and went to stumps at 218-4 in its second innings.

Captain Joe Root provided a strong supporting act for Sibley with his 61. They shared a partnership of 116 for the third wicket to add to a stand of 73 between Sibley and Joe Denly (31). "We were clinical today," England's James Anderson said.

England sensed a turnaround, not only in the series but also in its overall fortunes. South Africa leads the four-test contest 1-0 but England is in prime position to draw level in Cape Town. This tour has been one of misfortune so far for England because of illness and injury crises and a failing batting lineup.

That wasn't the case on Sunday, though. England produced arguably the most dominant batting display of the series so far and has probably played South Africa out of the game, even if the wicket is playing kind to batsmen.

“Our backs are up against it, let’s be honest," South Africa coach Mark Boucher said. Sibley's 85, his first test half-century, came off 222 balls in an indication that England was happy to bat slowly and deliberately for long periods to ensure victory. He hit 13 fours but took few chances.

England did lose two quick wickets at the end of the day. Root fell in the second-last over of the day to an outside edge to South Africa captain Faf du Plessis at slip off the bowling of allrounder Dwaine Pretorius. Nightwatchman Dom Bess gloved a bouncer from quick bowler Anrich Nortje eight balls later and was given out after a TV review.

But the South African celebrations for those late strikes were overstated. England is clearly in control of the test. The tourists had control from ball one of the third day, when veteran fast bowler Anderson removed South Africa's Kagiso Rabada. Anderson wrapped up South Africa's first innings soon after with Nortje's wicket.

South Africa, resuming on 215-8, was all out for 223 in reply to England's first-innings total of 269. England turned the promising 46-run lead into a daunting one by the close. That final wicket gave the 37-year-old Anderson 5-40 and a milestone 28th five-wicket haul, the most by an England player in test cricket. He overtook Ian Botham.

“I don’t really know what to say about that,” Anderson said. "I don’t really think about things like that. As I’ve said many times before, it’s nice to see my name above him, someone of his stature and what he did for the game.

“It makes me quite proud but it’s certainly not why I play the game and hopefully I can add to it in the next few years.” The wicket also provided a record-equaling catch for Ben Stokes. Stokes snapped up Nortje's edge for his fifth catch of the innings, only the 12th player, not including wicketkeepers, to take five catches in an innings.

England's batting was then rock-solid under Table Mountain as South Africa tried everything to dislodge Sibley and Root. Pace bowler Vernon Philander bowled with wicketkeeper de Kock standing up to the stumps. Spinner Keshav Maharaj bowled consistently into the rough outside leg stump. And Nortje attempted a barrage of bouncers.

None of it worked. England's tour started with a contagious flu-like illness that affected 11 players in the squad and half the lineup that played the series opener in Centurion. England lost that game by 107 runs.

Opening batsman Rory Burns and fast bowler Jofra Archer — two pivotal players — were then ruled out with injury in the days leading up to the second test. England emerged to be in sight of a first test victory since leveling the Ashes series against Australia in September.

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