Fourth Test, Centurion (day four)
South Africa 475 & 248-5 dec: Amla 96, Bavuma 78*
England 342 & 52-3: Rabada 2-15
England target 382
South Africa need a further seven wickets on the fifth day for a consolation victory in the final Test after reducing England to 52-3.
Needing 382 to win, or to survive four sessions to draw, England lost Alex Hales, Alastair Cook and Nick Compton inside 10 overs in Centurion.
Kagiso Rabada, who claimed 7-112 in the first innings, took two wickets.
Earlier, South Africa declared on 248-5, thanks to Hashim Amla’s 96 and an unbeaten 78 from Temba Bavuma.
No side has chased more than 251 to win at SuperSport Park, and, given the uneven bounce on a deteriorating pitch, South Africa will reasonably expect to claim victory for a 2-1 series defeat.
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Facing a formidable new-ball pairing of Rabada and Morne Morkel on an unpredictable pitch in gloomy light was not a scenario an out-of-form Hales would have relished.
The opener, who has scored one half-century in four Tests, was beaten by a fine delivery from Rabada that nipped back and kept low to trap him lbw for one.
When captain Cook pushed hesitantly back to Morkel, who took a sharp one-handed return catch, the tourists’ slim hopes of avoiding defeat diminished further.
Compton drove loosely at Rabada, a disappointing shot which was followed by the batsman’s strange decision to use up one of England’s two reviews when there seemed little doubt he had edged behind.
Although Joe Root and James Taylor added an unbroken 34 from 18-3, England must survive 98 overs on a final day which will begin half an hour early at 08:00 GMT.
Former England batsman Geoffrey Boycott told Test Match Special: “Do I have to talk about England’s batting?
“The pitch was a handful but Hales failed the test again. Compton played a shocking shot.”