Manchester, England (AP) — More lower-order resistance put England on course for a series-clinching victory in the fourth and final test against South Africa on Sunday as Moeen Ali’s quick-fire 67 gave the home team a 360-run lead.
There’s likely more to come from Ali, too, as he ended unbeaten and took England to stumps on Day 3 on 224-8, a slightly wobbly second innings but enough to open a convincing lead with two days to play.
Like Jonny Bairstow’s 99 in the first innings, Ali’s brisk half-century ensured England didn’t succumb when under pressure, this time at 153-7.
Ali, coming in at No. 8, counterattacked convincingly, hitting eight fours and three sixes in his 67 from just 59 balls. His 50 arrived off 49 balls and after England had been struggling and had gone 29 deliveries at one point without scoring.
Ali controlled a 58-run stand with Toby Roland-Jones, scoring 45 of those 58 runs from just 40 balls.
Rain brought an early stumps at Old Trafford, and Ali and Stuart Broad will return on Day 4 with a 400-run lead in sight. As it stands, England are still favorites to seal a 3-1 series victory to start the tenure of new captain Joe Root.
The current lead of 360 is more than any team has successfully chased in the fourth innings at Old Trafford.
Victory would bring England a second straight series win over South Africa after winning in South Africa 18 months ago, but their first at home over the Proteas since the Michael Atherton vs. Allan Donald series of 1998.
On Sunday, Root once again propped up England’s top order with his 49, but he played on to Olivier on the brink of a half-century and was fifth man out following failures by opener Keaton Jennings and new men Tom Westley and Dawid Malan.
Bairstow and Ben Stokes also failed this time, but at crucial points in this series the late-order trio of Bairstow, Stokes and now Ali has come to England’s rescue to stave off South Africa.