Heavily beaten in the first Test at Port Elizabeth, South Africa seized on the momentum gained by hanging on for a draw in Durban, keeping England’s tiring attack in the field for most of the second day, and edging themselves to a commanding position.
England were unable to prevent South Africa mounting an impressive lower order fightback to reach a first innings total of 441. South Africa added further pressure by claiming early wickets.
It left England - unbeaten in 13 successive Tests stretching back over a year - in danger of losing that record, after finishing 346 runs adrift on 95 for four. Left-arm spinner Nicky Boje used the uneven bounce to his best advantage.
South Africa’s day had been given an early lift with news that England captain Michael Vaughan had hurt his right hand in the nets, and had gone to hospital for a precautionary X-ray.
The diagnosis proved to be bruising to his middle finger, but it was a premonition for what was to come for England, who responded to his 40-minute absence from the field with Matthew Hoggard claiming a fortuitous leg before decision against Hashim Amla.
Two further wickets were claimed shortly before lunch to leave South Africa struggling on 313 for seven, when Boje joined all-rounder Jacques Kallis at the crease.
The pair frustrated the tourists for a further 28 overs, adding 104 crucial runs and firmly establishing South Africa’s dominance for the first time in the series.