DURBAN - Moeen Ali spun England to a crushing 241-run win over South Africa on the fifth and final day of the first Test at Kingsmead on Wednesday.

Off-spinner Ali took three early wickets as South Africa lost their last six wickets for 38 runs. Starting the day on 136 for four, South Africa lost batting kingpin AB de Villiers leg before wicket to the third ball of the day when he went back on his stumps to a ball from Ali which skidded through and hit him low on his pads.

With the third ball of his next over, Ali struck again when Temba Bavuma skipped down the wicket to a ball which drifted past his bat to provide Jonny Bairstow with an easy stumping. Including the wicket of Faf du Plessis, who fell to Steven Finn with what proved to be the last wicket of the fourth day, three wickets had fallen for no runs.

Only two more runs were scored before Finn bowled nightwatchman Dale Steyn. Ali claimed his third wicket of the morning when Kyle Abbott, like De Villiers, went back on his stumps and was leg before wicket.

JP Duminy, one of the batsmen whose form has been a concern for South Africa, made 26 not out before Stuart Broad wrapped up the win by having Morne Morkel leg before wicket. It was a decisive win for England, who went into the series in fifth place on the Test rankings, while top-ranked South Africa suffered a continuation of the batting woes they suffered while being beaten 3-0 in a recent four-Test series in India.

England batted better than South Africa, with most of their batsmen making useful contributions, while Broad, Finn and Ali spearheaded their bowling. Broad created early havoc in South Africa's first innings, while Finn's three wickets on the fourth day were decisive blows.

Ali's consistency while bowling long spells enabled England captain Alastair Cook to rotate his fast bowlers and Ali finished with match figures of seven for 116. Finn took six wickets in the match and Broad five. With only two days before the second Test starts at Newlands in Cape Town on Saturday, South Africa have minimal time in which to find solutions to their batting problems, while their bowling seems certain to be weakened by the absence of star bowler Dale Steyn because of a shoulder injury.

England have taken big strides: Cook: England captain Alastair Cook hailed the performance and potential of his team. Cook said a key factor had been batting solidly in bowler-friendly overhead conditions on the first day after being sent in. "It was an interesting toss, the overheads were suggesting you want to bowl first but the pitch was quite dry," said Cook.

"We would also have bowled first. It was a matter of getting through that first day. The way Nick (Compton) played really set up the first innings. From that moment on, the guys bowled particularly well to take 20 wickets and we scored enough runs in the second innings."

Cook said a convincing win against a strong South Africa A team in the build-up to the Test had given the players a lot of confidence. "It was particularly pleasing to back up our form under pressure in a Boxing Day Test match." With only a two-day turnaround before the second Test starts in Cape Town on Saturday, Cook said it was important to recover well and to avoid complacency. "It can turn very quickly. They have world-class players so we can't get too carried away. But it would be nice to get our noses ahead again and to continue to put pressure on South Africa."

Despite his fifth-ranked side defeating the current Test number ones, Cook said it was too early to predict a period of ascendancy for England. But he said: "The guys have taken big strides forward as a team over the last eight months or so. It's a good side to captain, there's a good balance, the guys are happy and they seem really hungry.”

South African captain Hashim Amla, meanwhile, admitted that his team's batting had been "most disappointing", especially following a poor performance on a similarly good batting pitch in the final Test in Delhi earlier this month during a losing series in India. Amla said his team's lack of batting form was "a confidence thing" and acknowledged that his own lack of runs was a concern.

"As captain you want to lead from the front not being in the runs is most disappointing from me. It's a developing team but certainly from my perspective getting runs on the board is most important."

Amla admitted that regaining form and confidence could only come from scoring runs. "If you get the runs you get the confidence. You can be doing everything well in the nets and working behind the scenes but it's got to materialise with some sort of runs on the board, especially in the big games." Amla said he still enjoyed being captain but ducked questions about possible changes in the team. "I try and leave those things to the selectors. I can only give my opinion."

He hinted, however, that Quinton de Kock, who has been added to the squad, could come into the side for the second Test as a wicketkeeper-batsman, enabling AB de Villiers to play as a batsman only. "AB's workload has been great than we expected," he said. South African coach Russell Domingo admitted: "We didn't play half as well as we can."

Domingo denied there was a lack of harmony in the camp. "From what I'm aware, it's a happy camp. The players are not happy with their performances but they are all supporting the captain." Domingo acknowledged that there was bound to be criticism. "There's a lot that went wrong but we need to keep the team tight and keep the noise out."

Scoreboard

ENGLAND 1ST INNINGS: 303

SOUTH AFRICA 1ST INNINGS: 214

ENGLAND 2ND INNINGS: 326

SOUTH AFRICA 2ND INNINGS:

(OVERNIGHT: 136-4):

D Elgar c Root b Finn 40

S van Zyl b Stokes 33

H Amla c Bairstow b Finn 12

A de Villiers lbw b Ali 37

F du Plessis c Cook b Finn 9

D Steyn b Finn 2

T Bavuma st Bairstow b Ali 0

J Duminy not out 26

K Abbott lbw b Ali 2

D Piedt c Taylor b Woakes 0

M Morkel lbw b Broad 8

EXTRAS: (b2, lb3) 5

TOTAL: (all out; 71 overs) 174

FOW: 1-53, 2-85, 3-88, 4-136, 5-136, 6-136, 7-138, 8-143, 9-155

BOWLING: Broad 13-5-29-1, Woakes 10-5-25-1, Finn 15-6-42-4, Stokes 7-1-26-1, Ali 26-9-47-3

TOSS: South Africa

UMPIRES: Aleem Dar (PAK), Rod Tucker (AUS)

TV UMPIRE: Bruce Oxenford (AUS)

MATCH REFEREE: Ranjan Madugalle (SRI)