Anrich Nortje starred as a disciplined South Africa attack snuffed out England's hopes of an improbable victory in the first Test at Centurion.

Nortje claimed the key wickets of England's top scorer Rory Burns for 84 and captain Joe Root two shy of a battling half-century as the Proteas won by 107 runs.

Bowling with pace and hostility to make the most of a pitch giving variable bounce to the pacemen, Nortje (3-56) was the standout performer as South Africa dispensed with the loose third-evening efforts that left England with a sense they might challenge a lofty victory target of 376.

Kagiso Rabada ensured Jos Buttler's blistering 22-run contribution was no more than a brief cameo to snuff out England's last realistic hopes, before bowling Stuart Broad and wrapping things up with figures of 4-103 - ending a run of five consecutive defeats in Tests for Faf du Plessis' men in the process.

No batsman other than Burns managed to pass 50 for England in the second innings as the tourists, whose camp was ravaged by illness before and during the match, collapsed from 204-3 to 268 all out.

However, the damage was truly done by a pitiful first-innings effort of 181 that meant a deficit of 103 after Root's eyebrow-raising decision to bowl after winning the toss.

The uncapped Keegan Petersen has been called into South Africa's squad for the second Test against England in Cape Town as a replacement for the injured Aiden Markram.

Petersen, 26, plays his domestic cricket for the Knights and averages 41 with the bat from 88 first-class matches.

After making a century for South Africa A against England prior to the first Test at Centurion, he has now earned a first call-up to the Proteas senior side with Markram having been ruled out of the series.

In a press release announcing Petersen's addition to the squad, Cricket South Africa acknowledged the batsman's "consistently good performances in the CSA domestic franchise four-day series over an extended period of time".

Markram fractured a finger on his left hand on day two of the ongoing first Test and is set to undergo surgery next week.

Ben Stokes' Headingley heroics give England hope of achieving what would be their record Test run chase, says batting coach Graeme Thorpe.

Chasing 376 to beat South Africa in the opening Test, England ended day three on 121-1 for their second innings, a marked improvement on their 181 all out in the first.

Rory Burns is 77 not out and Joe Denly remains unbeaten on 10, with Stokes and Jonny Bairstow still to bat along with Joe Root and Jos Buttler, who are both struggling with illness.

Stokes inspired England to an improbable one-wicket win over Australia in the third Test against Australia with a magnificent unbeaten 135 and Thorpe feels the camp have belief a similar result is possible at SuperSport Park.

Asked if Stokes' Headingley knock gives England hope, Thorpe told Sky Sports: "It does. 

"It doesn't guarantee us a victory and we know we've got a long way to go, but we were pleased with that. If you gave us this position a day ago we would have taken it. 

"We have belief. We've got a chance. If we have a good first session, South Africa will look at the scoreboard. 

"We have belief that if we play well, we can put them under pressure. It's always nice to see players bounce back and show character."

Bairstow kept wicket for England with the illnesses to regular keeper Buttler and captain Root the latest in a long list of health issues within the squad.

"It hasn't been a straightforward Test match for us with players coming and going with illness," said Thorpe. "Hopefully Jos Buttler and Joe Root will have another night's sleep.

"We didn't bat well enough first innings. We let ourselves down. The pitch seemed to do a bit more on Friday. 

"We'll break it down. We know we've got to play well and when we're in a good position, we've got to be more ruthless."

England's much-maligned top order finally showed some resolve to preserve the tourists' slim chance of pulling off a remarkable first Test triumph against South Africa.

It appeared South Africa were nailed-on victors when they capitalised on some shoddy England bowling to make 272 all out in their second innings and set Joe Root's men an improbable target of 376 at Centurion.

If England do achieve the unlikely, it would be their record run-chase, surpassing the 359 against Australia at Headingley earlier this year.

The early signs were encouraging with Rory Burns and Dom Sibley digging deep - aided by a couple of moments of fortune - before the latter was dismissed late on day three as England closed on 121-1, requiring another 255 to take an early advantage in the four-match series.

Burns was the stand-out performer, reaching 77 not out at the close, and playing the dominant role in an opening partnership of 92 on a deteriorating pitch.

It could have been so different, however, had he not opted to review when given out leg before to Kagiso Rabada in the first over. Replays showed the ball would have been missing off-stump and he had another let-off when Rassie van der Dussen spilt a presentable chance in the slips off Vernon Philander.

After that he played near faultless cricket, combining stout defence and fluent shotmaking to frustrate a Proteas attack that lacked the spark they had earlier in the match.

The one breakthrough came when Sibley pushed a harmless delivery back to spinner Keshav Maharaj for 29 but the hosts could make no further inroads with Joe Denly unbeaten on six at stumps.

While no doubt pleased with their late resistance, England will rue a shambolic opening hour that, had it been avoided, would have meant a more manageable run chase.

They were not helped by captain Root spending as much time in quarantine in the England dressing room as he did out in the middle but that was no excuse for a torrid opening to the day that saw a couple of missed run-out opportunities, some sloppy outfielding and a verbal spat between senior bowler Stuart Broad and Root's deputy Ben Stokes.

Add in some woeful bowling with Broad and Jofra Archer, in particular, persisting with a short-pitched barrage that never looked likely to reap rewards and it was easy to see why England have appeared on a downward trajectory in the longest format for much of 2019.

Nightwatchman Anrich Nortje appeared comfortable - bar one moment when he required a review to overturn a decision that saw him given out off Sam Curran when the ball clipped his shoulder before being snaffled by stand-in wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow.

He and Rassie van der Dussen put on 50 before the latter perished for a well-made 51, Archer finally pitching one up to produce a lbw call that was confirmed after a review.

Archer then snared Nortje two overs later before Stokes got in on the act to remove Dwain Pretorius.

Although the wickets were starting to tumble at one end, Quinton de Kock was looking menacing at the other with Archer coming in for some hammer from the South Africa wicketkeeper.

It therefore came as some relief to the tourists when Stokes induced a nibble from De Kock (34 from 37 balls) and Bairstow did the rest.

Vernon Philander continued to impress in the first Test of his final series with a belligerent 46 before he was the last man out as the South Africa innings was wrapped up for 272, Archer finishing with figures of 5-102.

South Africa opener Aiden Markram will miss the rest of the Test series against England due to a fractured finger.

Markram requires surgery on his fourth left finger after suffering the injury on day two of the first Test in Centurion.

In a statement on Saturday, Cricket South Africa (CSA) said Markram would miss at least six weeks, with surgery scheduled for early next week.

"Aiden sustained a fracture affecting the distal joint of his left ring finger," CSA chief medical officer Dr Shuaib Manjra said.

"After consulting with a number of hand specialists yesterday we arrived at a decision that the best outcome would be achieved through surgical reduction and fixation. This would mean him unfortunately missing the rest of the series against England.

"We feel for Aiden who worked extremely hard to come through his previous hand fracture sustained in India to be Test match ready."

Markram made 20 in the first innings and fell for two in the second as South Africa were reduced to 72-4, leading England by 175 runs in the opening Test of four.

Joe Denly knows England must find a way to halt their batting collapses after South Africa built a 175-run lead on day two at Centurion.

Denly was England's top scorer with 50 on Friday as the tourists were all out for 181, losing their final seven wickets for just 39 runs.

James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Jofra Archer led the England fightback with the ball, restricting South Africa to 72-4 by stumps.

However, Denly acknowledged England's batsmen must now step up if Joe Root's side are to keep themselves in contention in the first Test of a four-match series.

"It's frustrating. It felt pretty comfortable out there. Myself and Ben [Stokes] were starting to get a really good partnership going. I managed to nick one and we lost a few wickets after that," Denly told Sky Sports.

"We spoke at tea about trying to bat long, keep them out there as long as we could. It wasn't to be in the end but a great fightback at the end.

"We have spoken about trying to get those first innings runs. It's trying to assess the conditions a bit better, understanding game situations, where we're at, who's bowling, trying to get through those tricky periods and wear them down that way.

"You have to be clear in your plan. What is the surface doing, how the bowlers are trying to get you out and working together as a partnership, get through those tough periods.

"We're in a stronger position than where we could have been. A big morning coming up and hopefully the batters can get some runs."

Denly was dropped while still on zero, though looked comfortable at the crease up until he reached his half century, succumbing to Dwaine Pretorius three balls later.

"It was tough, a very impressive opening spell [from South Africa], very high-class bowlers and they challenged us. It was tough," Denly said when asked about his performance.

"I was just being patient, I knew it was going to be tough and they were going to make me work hard for every single run, but it was just a case of being patient and sticking to my plan of trying to have a tight defence and seeing off [Vernon] Philander and [Kagiso] Rabada to start with.

"Once the new ball wore off, it was hot off there as well, so they couldn't charge in for too long, I managed to find a bit of fluency."

England suffered another batting collapse but the tourists battled back to limit South Africa to 72-4 at the start of their second innings in an action-packed second day at Centurion.

Having finished off South Africa's tail within three overs in the morning session, England took to the crease chasing 284, with the Proteas owing much to Quinton de Kock's knock of 95 on day one.

However, after Rory Burns and Dom Sibley fell early, Joe Denly (50) – who was dropped on zero – helped steady England's innings, but captain Joe Root (29) conceded his wicket with a slack flick outside off stump.

De Kock was the star in the field for South Africa, taking six catches as the issues that plagued England's Ashes series came back to haunt them again, though the tourists did make it to 142-4.

But a collapse of seven wickets for 39 runs handed South Africa a healthy 103-run lead.

James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Jofra Archer made quick inroads as South Africa lost four wickets inside 15 overs. Still, the Proteas should be confident of victory as they head into day three with a lead of 175 runs.

Sam Curran impressed for England on day one but his figures of 4-58 were matched when he dismissed Vernon Philander (35). 

But after frustrating England with the bat on Thursday, Philander made a swift impact with the ball, with a delivery outside off stump flicking Burns' glove on its way through to De Kock.

South Africa's wicketkeeper took his second catch in the next over, sending Sibley walking from Kagiso Rabada's shorter delivery.

Denly got lucky when Rassie van der Dussen put him down in the slips, as Philander finished an exceptional first spell with five successive maidens.

Root and Denly managed to form a solid partnership until lunch, after which England's captain played a sloppy shot that handed Philander his second wicket, and De Kock another catch.

With support from Stokes (35), Denly reached 50 with a superb boundary through the covers, but he succumbed to an inside edge three balls later, and England subsequently crumbled either side of tea.

Anderson claimed a wicket with the first delivery of the Test, and needed just five balls this time around to draw an edge from Aiden Markram.

Broad and Archer soon got in on the act – Jos Buttler taking fine catches to dismiss Zubayr Hamza and Dean Elgar.   Aggressive play from Faf du Plessis (20) got South Africa on the front foot, only for the Proteas captain to pick out Curran in the deep from Archer's bowling as England finished on a high.

Sam Curran believes England let Quinton de Kock get into his stride too easily, but says it was a positive day for the tourists at Centurion.

Curran was the outstanding performer for England as his four wickets helped keep South Africa in check on day one of the first Test.

His haul included the dismissal of De Kock, whose 95 was instrumental in guiding the Proteas – who lost Dean Elgar to James Anderson on the first ball of the day and had been 97-4 – to 277-9 by stumps.

De Kock was fortunate early in his innings as he hit a quickfire 50, but picked his shots with more caution after surpassing a half-century, before eventually edging a Curran delivery through to Jos Buttler.

Though Curran conceded England could have done better to restrict De Kock, he feels he and his team-mates are in a strong position heading into day two.

"Obviously we'd have liked to have bowled them out by the end of the day but to have them nine down and under 300, it's pretty even," Curran told Sky Sports.

"Anytime you choose to bowl first there's going to be a lot of pressure on the bowlers to take a load of the wickets but what a better way to start, with Jimmy [James Anderson] on his 150th Test. A great start and we all enjoyed that.

"De Kock probably got away from us a bit too quickly as the day went on but to get him so he can't bat with the tail was pretty good. 

"I think you watch him in one-day cricket and he just plays his shots, he's a great player, so we expected him to play his natural game, even in Tests.

"He probably got away a bit too quickly when he came in, got a foothold. He probably rode his luck a bit as well but fair play to him, he got a good score."

England elected to play five seamers, though all-rounder Ben Stokes was unable to bowl as he struggled with illness and dehydration in the heat.

"I think Stoksey's suffering with dehydration, I started suffering with cramp towards the end, nothing serious, but I managed to carry on," Curran said.

"There was not much breeze and it was pretty hot, so it was tough work but I think we coped well."

Sam Curran led the way for England as his four-wicket haul helped the visitors restrict South Africa to 277-9 on day one of the first Test at Centurion.

With Ben Stokes unable to bowl due to struggling with illness and dehydration, Curran seized the initiative to reward Joe Root's decision to put the Proteas in after winning the toss.

His dismissal of Quinton de Kock for 95 was crucial, with South Africa's wicketkeeper-batsman having frustrated England after coming in with the hosts wobbling at 97-4.

De Kock had got lucky on his way to a 45-ball fifty; James Anderson, who dismissed Dean Elgar with the first delivery of his 150th Test appearance, missed a difficult chance as Joe Root, England’s spin option in a seam-heavy attack, twice went close.

It was Curran's day, though, as the 21-year-old rounded off a fine performance with the vital breakthrough when a century for the left-hander looked a certainty, giving England the edge at stumps.

Back in action at Test level for the first time since the start of the Ashes in August, Anderson made an instant impact, Elgar caught down leg as he feathered an edge through to wicketkeeper Jos Buttler.

Determined not to be outdone, Curran wasted little time in making his mark, taking just four deliveries to draw Aiden Markram into a tame flick that was well caught by Jonny Bairstow.

Faf du Plessis and Zubayr Hamza managed to steady the ship for the home team, though the latter eventually went on 39 to Stuart Broad as South Africa reached lunch on 79-3.

With Jofra Archer and Anderson toiling in the afternoon, Curran was reintroduced – and immediately sent back Rassie van der Dussen, who saw a defensive prod only provide Root with a simple catch at first slip.

South Africa skipper Du Plessis provided his counterpart with a simple catch from Broad's bowling soon after too, leading to De Kock taking an aggressive approach in tricky circumstances.

Riding his luck at times, the 27-year-old cruised to a quick fifty, with Dwaine Pretorius (33) providing some welcome support.

Though Curran ended a sixth-wicket stand worth 87 after the restart, De Kock began to show greater discipline as he continued to drag South Africa up towards 300.

Yet Curran finally had his man when a full delivery nipped away slightly, with a thin edge going through to Buttler. He thought he had a five-for soon after, only for Keshav Maharaj to successfully review an lbw decision thanks to an inside edge.

Archer instead ended Maharaj's short stay at the crease and Kagiso Rabada succumbed to Broad in the closing stages, the fall of the ninth wicket ending proceedings on the opening day.

England all-rounder Ben Stokes' father's condition has improved to stable after he was hospitalised with a serious illness.

Ged Stokes was taken to hospital in Johannesburg on Monday and was in a critical condition, but received good news two days later.

A statement from the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) said Ged "has shown signs of improvement following his admittance to hospital in Johannesburg on Monday.

"He remains in intensive care, but has responded positively to treatment and is now in a stable condition."

Ben Stokes is expected to play a full part in practice on Christmas Day ahead of the first Test against South Africa starting on Thursday.

West Indies all-round legend Sir Garry Sobers has warned England fast bowler Jofra Archer is not yet the finished article, as the bowler has struggled to make a significant impact in recent appearances, after a brilliant start to his career.

The 24-year-old Barbadian born fast bowler captured the attention of the world with a brilliant showing for England at ICC World Cup. Archer then went on to steal the limelight in the 2-2 home Ashes draw with Australia, taking 6-45 in the third Test at Headingley and finishing the series as the third leading wicket-taker with 22, despite only making his debut in the second Test.

The player, however, then struggled in New Zealand recently, returning figures of just 2-209 in England’s 1-0 series defeat.

“One swallow does not make a summer,” Sobers said of the players start to life in international cricket.

“Jofra has a lot of talent and the potential to go a long way, but how far depends on him.  You see a promising player come along and do well for a series, which maybe gives an inflated impression of his ability. If he thinks, ‘Oh, I’ve got it now, I’ve done this, done that’, there’s a danger he will not fulfill his potential,” he added.

“He must recognize the harder he works, the better results he will get.”

Archer will feature for England in a Boxing Day Test against South Africa at Centurion.

 

South Africa captain Faf du Plessis is drawing inspiration from a chance meeting with Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp ahead of the Test series with England.

Du Plessis was out to dinner with South Africa's Rugby World Cup-winning skipper Siya Kolisi - a Reds fan - when they met Klopp.

While Klopp readily recognised Kolisi, Du Plessis admitted he was less familiar to the German, although the Champions League-winning boss certainly made an impression.

"He said he watches cricket," said Du Plessis, whose side begin the first of four Tests on December 26.

"The Liverpool guys watched the Cricket World Cup and he knew about how well England did, so that's great.

"For someone to be that famous, he is a great guy, and that's what I believe real leadership is about.

"It's about connecting with people, having great relationships with people, so I became a massive fan.

"I am not a huge football fan, I don't support a lot but I do support him now."

Du Plessis pines for the kind of stability that Klopp enjoys at Anfield but is at least enjoying the benefits of a hastily assembled interim structure following an administrative crisis.

The likes of Graeme Smith, Mark Boucher and Jacques Kallis have been enlisted to steady the ship and Du Plessis is delighted to have them on board.

"Why have these guys not been here for the last 10 years?" he said. 

"If you look around international cricket, other teams have got that. Think of Australia - Justin Langer, Steve Waugh, Ricky Ponting. We need that. We want that.

"There is a vision. The test team is still in an infant stage. The plan is to get back [to number one]. As a Test team we do need to mature."

Joe Root says the whole England squad are throwing their full support behind Ben Stokes after the "horrible" news his father has been hospitalised in a critical condition.

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) confirmed Stokes' father Ged has been admitted to hospital with a serious illness in Johannesburg and the all-rounder will be at his bedside while his team-mates train at SuperSport Park on Tuesday.

England are preparing for a four-match Test series against the Proteas and captain Root was saddened by the news affecting his deputy.

"It is horrible to hear," Root said to BBC Sport.

"The ECB have put a statement out so as far as we are concerned we can't give any more information.

"We just want to throw all our support behind him and his family and just stress the importance of trying to respect their privacy at this time.

"But it is really sad news and we are all there for him."

Root confirmed he did not know if Stokes would be able to play the first Test, which starts on Thursday.

"No [idea] and it would be wrong to go into that now," the batsman added.

"The support, that he is there with his family, that comes first. We will have to wait and see but most importantly we are all there for Ben and the rest of his family."

Chris Woakes has been the latest England player to be struck down with illness and will, along with Stokes, miss training on Tuesday.

"He wasn't very well at all on Monday," explained Root. "These things happen unfortunately and we will try to manage as best we can."

Stuart Broad, Jack Leach and Jofra Archer missed England's warm-up games with illness and the team had already called up Craig Overton and Dom Bess as additional cover before the developments on Stokes and Woakes.

As things stand, James Anderson, Overton and Sam Curran are the only pace bowlers who are definitely available for the opener.

Chris Silverwood revealed England are mulling over sticking with an all-seam attack for the first Test against South Africa at Centurion.

England selected four seamers and all-rounder Ben Stokes for the second and final match of their series against New Zealand last time out.

The tourists have been affected by illness ahead of the opener against the Proteas, with Stuart Broad, Jofra Archer and Jack Leach among those struck down.

Head coach Silverwood says spinner Leach may not be selected regardless of his health, due to previous fixtures at SuperSport Park.

Asked if it is possible England could line up on Boxing Day without a frontline slow bowler, he replied: "Yeah, I think it is.

"Obviously in Hamilton we looked at all the stats, who took wickets at the ground, and it showed that spin didn't really play much part in the games, or certainly have much effect on the games.

"We look at the stats for this ground, it's the same thing, you're looking at wickets taken by seam, wickets taken by spin and the averages that go along with them, it suggests that seam is the way forward, and the thing that has most effect on the game here, so we're certainly looking at that."

Uncapped leg-spinner Matt Parkinson is another option for England, while Dom Bess was called up as cover for Leach.

Silverwood added: "We've got some good resources in the spin department, Leachy is coming back to fitness now, we've got Dominic Bess here as well, Parky who bowled nicely in Benoni [where England drew with South Africa A in a tour match].

"So we've got the resources but we're looking at it for what it is, what has most effect in this game. We're not definitely going down the road of all seam, but it's something we've got to discuss over the next few days.

"I''s not rocket science, every team has these stats. You look at what's effective on that ground and then you look at what you've got in your arsenal and try to put out the best side you can."

Gareth Southgate says the way England "took apart" the lower-ranked sides in their Euro 2020 qualifying group should give Three Lions fans plenty of optimism for next year's tournament.

England coasted to top spot in Group A, their only blip a surprise 2-1 loss away to the Czech Republic, scoring an impressive 37 goals in eight games along the way.

Having reached the semi-finals of the World Cup in Russia last year, England are among the more fancied sides for European Championship glory.

Croatia, who defeated the Three Lions at the World Cup, and Czech Republic will be in England's group at the Euros with one spot yet to be filled, and Southgate is confident his side will compete with the favourites.

"We expected to win our [qualification] group but the way that we played and the way we took apart those lower-ranked teams, I don't think we could have done any more than we did." he told Sky Sports.

 There is a lot for people to get excited about, our internal expectations are high. 

"Of course we want the fans to be excited, I don't want to take away that hope and excitement."

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