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England on course to clinch series, SAfrica reeling at 88-6

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — England is on course for another crushing victory over South Africa just two days into the fourth and final test at the Wanderers on Saturday on what is shaping to be its most successful tour of the country in more than 100 years.

England made 400 all out batting first in the series decider, capped by a big-hitting 82-run last-wicket stand by Stuart Broad and Mark Wood that appeared to completely deflate South Africa. Wood then went to work with the ball to take 3-21 and help send the struggling home team crashing to 88-6 at stumps in its reply, and staring at another embarrassing loss.

England won the last test by an innings and 53 runs. England is 312 runs ahead in the final match, 2-1 up in the series and on course to clinch it. England needs just a draw in Johannesburg but looks set to win by a large margin. That would give England its most convincing triumph in South Africa since winning a five-test series 4-0 in 1914, six months before the outbreak of World War I.

England's first innings at the Wanderers was set up by a 107-run opening stand between Zak Crawley (66) and Dom Sibley (44) on the first day. Captain Joe Root (59) and Ollie Pope (56) added a 101-run partnership on Saturday.

Broad and Wood not only withstood but battered the fragile and inexperienced South African bowling attack at the end for good measure. Broad clubbed four sixes in his 43, his highest test score since December 2017. Wood was almost as destructive with three sixes in his 35 not out.

England should have been out for around 320 but the last pair gave it a crucial edge to get to 400. No team has made 400 in the first innings at the Wanderers and lost. The 400 was likely to be plenty. England picked up the six South African wickets in the space of 59 runs late in the day.

South Africa's struggle was encapsulated in opener Dean Elgar's waft outside off stump to give a regulation catch to Chris Woakes off the bowling of Ben Stokes. Elgar stood at the crease, almost disbelieving that he'd got out in such a way, before dropping his head and trudging off.

Wood led the attack with his three wickets and Sam Curran, Ben Stokes and Woakes had one each. Woakes, on his recall to the England team, removed South Africa captain Faf du Plessius lbw for 3 with a ball that jagged back in and struck him on the pad. Du Plessis figured it was too high and reviewed the decision. It showed it was just clipping the bail. Du Plessis is likely playing his last test at home before retiring and has just one more innings to leave a final mark in South Africa.

Wood had his second wicket when Temba Bavuma, called back into the team to help South Africa's batting crisis, edged behind to Stokes in the slips for 6. South Africa was in a desperate position when Wood collected his third at the end of the day when nightwatchman Anrich Nortje edged to gully.

England has been clearly superior ever since losing the opening test while half of its team was struck down by a flu-like virus. Recovered, the English won the second test in Cape Town by 189 runs and drove home their dominance in the third test in Port Elizabeth by routing South Africa.

South Africa also had nothing to cheer at the Wanderers, even after fast bowler Nortje's first five-wicket haul earlier in the day. He took 3-11 in one period, when he removed Pope, Root and then Curran first ball to give South Africa a glimpse of hope.

Root survived being dropped on 53 when opposite number du Plessis dived to his right and initially held but then fumbled the catch off Nortje as he came down to the ground. It didn't cost South Africa much as Nortje forced Root out in his next over.

What did cost South Africa was some especially lethargic bowling in the afternoon after Nortje's hard work had England on 269-7. England's tailenders pounced to add 131 runs for the last three wickets. Jos Buttler (20) and Woakes (32) made contributions before Broad and Wood blasted England almost out of sight of South Africa.

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