Moeen Ali
Ali proved influential again as England moved into a position of complete command. Getty Images

Moeen Ali once again proved to be the difference for England as a lightning half century pushed the hosts 360 runs ahead of South Africa and closer to securing a series victory after day three of the fourth Test at Old Trafford. The Proteas rattled through the top order before a counter-attack by the all-rounder took the game away from the tourists, who closed on 224 for 8.

England led by just 289 when they lost their seventh second innings wicket as South Africa produced a storming comeback with the ball. Duanne Olivier took three wickets and Morne Morkel, Kagiso Rabada claim two apiece, but none of the seam trio had an answer to Ali's attacking approach which took the home side to a position of comfort.

Ali went to his sixth Test half century with eight fours and three sixes and the unbeaten knock of 67 from 59 balls leaves England with two days to complete a 3-1 series win. Joe Root was denied a fifty for the 11th match in a row but it mattered little as South Africa's hope in the match faded.

After conceding a lead of 136 after adding just six to their overnight total, England were 187 for 5 after losing openers Alastair Cook [10] and Keaton Jennings [18] - whose Test career is surely over after a woeful series. Tom Westley [9] and Dawid Malan [6] also fell cheaply to give South Africa hope of levelling a series which for long periods they have played second fiddle.

Root soaked up 106 delivers for his 49 but after he played on off Olivier, Ali went on the offensive and summed up England's new ethos with a spate of attacking strokes which turned the game back in their favour. The highlight came via a straight six off Keshav Maharaj, who was ineffective despite the mountains of rough to bowl into, which landed in the hands of Jonny Bairstow standing in the home dressing room.

Rain halted the entertainment and hopes England had of further extending their lead beyond the 360 they reached before the close, but their assault on victory will resume on day four with South Africa merely playing for pride.