MANCHESTER: Moeen Ali´s dashing fifty all but put the fourth Test beyond South Africa´s reach as England moved towards a series win at Old Trafford on Sunday.
When rain ended the third´s play at 1615 GMT, England were 224 for eight in their second innings — a lead of 360 runs — with Ali unbeaten on 67.
South Africa already needed to set a new ground record if they were to end this four-match series all square at 2-2 as no side have made more in the fourth innings of a Test at Old Trafford to win than England´s 294 for four against New Zealand in 2008.
Ali made South Africa pay for Dean Elgar dropping him on 15 when a low slip chance off left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj did not stick.
He may come in at No 8 for England but off-spinner Ali — who earlier in this match took 20 wickets in a Test series for the first time in his career — made his name with Worcestershire as a top-order batsman.
Ali, who bats left-handed, was especially severe on Maharaj, hitting him for three resounding sixes.
The second of those, a straight drive that saw Ali complete a 49-ball fifty — was ´caught´ on the England dressing-room balcony by wicket-keeper Jonny Bairstow to the delight of the crowd.
England were bidding for a first home Test series win over South Africa since 1998, with Joe Root seeking a victory in his first Test series as England captain.
South Africa resumed on 220 for nine and were soon all out for 226 when Stuart Broad dismissed last man Duanne Olivier.
That gave England a healthy first-innings lead of 136.
Olivier´s exit meant James Anderson, England´s all-time leading wicket-taker — was denied a maiden five-wicket Test innings haul on his Lancashire home ground.
But figures of four for 38 in 17 overs gave Anderson, who´d struck four times from the newly-named James Anderson End on Saturday, his best innings return in seven Tests at Old Trafford.
South Africa fast bowler Morne Morkel then removed both Alastair Cook (10) and Tom Westley (nine) with the aid of gully catches.