England hold edge over South Africa


England took wickets regularly to have the better of the first day of the third Test against South Africa.

The tourists recovered from a poor morning session to reduce the home side from 117-1 to 267-7 in Johannesburg.

Steven Finn and Ben Stokes each took two wickets, with Stuart Broad and Moeen Ali adding one apiece.

Too many of the South Africa batsmen wasted starts, but an unbroken stand of 42 between Chris Morris and Kagiso Rabada gave the Proteas a late boost.

That took the home side from 225-7, where they were in danger of surrendering, to a position where they could reach a par score of about 300.

England, 1-0 up with this and one more Test to play, will look for the final three wickets on the second morning, then set about batting long enough to secure a first-innings lead.

A slow start

On a pitch offering the most pace, bounce and encouragement for the fast bowlers than any of their previous five Tests this winter, England were guilty of erring too often in the morning session. Broad seemed affected by illness, while James Anderson is still feeling his way back after a calf injury.

AB de Villiers, in his first match since replacing Hashim Amla as South Africa captain, took the bold move to bat first under grey skies and looked like being vindicated during the early part of the day.

Dean Elgar and Stiaan Van Zyl scored 44 watchful runs for the first wicket before Stokes induced Van Zyl into the first of a series of misjudged South African pull shots.

Then Elgar and Amla, who mixed fortune with cover drives, looked set to be laying a decent platform with a second-wicket stand of 73.

The improvement

However, England were rejuvenated after lunch, especially through Finn, who was the pick of the bowlers throughout.

It was off-spinner Moeen, though, who made the breakthrough, getting one to turn and bounce at Elgar, with the left-hander feathering behind for 46.

And when Finn, who at times looked unplayable, produced a beauty that nipped away to take the edge of Amla, South Africa had lost two wickets for 10 runs. At 127-3, England had an opening.

De Villiers was intent on counter-attacking but he was caught behind on 36, attempting an ugly hook off Stokes, and South Africa began to subside.

Wasteful Proteas

For all the menace presented when the bowlers got it right, the surface also allowed batsmen to score if the bowling was off-target.

For that reason, South Africa can reflect on a wasted opportunity, particularly as they managed to avoid falling to England’s good deliveries yet somehow gave wickets away to the poor ones.

The watchful Faf du Plessis was caught on the leg-side boundary off Finn and wicketkeeper Dane Vilas – rushed to the Wanderers from Port Elizabeth on the morning of the match after an injury to Quinton de Kock – hooked Broad to long leg.

In between, Temba Bavuma, looking comfortable after a maiden century in the second Test, was run out for 23 after being called through by Vilas – substitute fielder Chris Woakes firing in the throw that Jonny Bairstow did well to pick up and remove the bails in one movement.

In the end, it needed the correct Morris and fortunate Rabada to score off the second new ball. The value of their contribution will be measured when England come to bat.

‘They played silly shots’ – what they said

Former England batsman Geoffrey Boycott on Test Match Special: “If I’m South Africa I’m disappointed with that.

“Amla and Elgar were the only two people who were got out by good balls. Four of them got out to cross-batted shots, and the run-out. They played silly shots and gave it away.”

Ex-England captain Michael Vaughan: “South Africa have had many small partnerships but not one that really hurts an opposition team and goes a long way to winning a Test match.”

England bowling coach Ottis Gibson: “We were on it for most of the day. We got better as the day went on.

“To lose the toss and bowl first, to have the opposition seven down is just reward for some hard work. We’ve got to be happy with that.”


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