• Dala throws the first punch

    England’s batting woes at the top of the order have been brutally exposed in their warm-up game against a SA Invitational XI in Potchefstroom.

    The first shots in the series between South Africa and England have been fired as the England opening pair became a big talking point ahead of the Boxing Day Test in Durban.

    This comes after Junior Dala said opener Alex Hales was ‘under pressure’ going into the first Test against the Proteas.

    Hales has been earmarked to open the batting for England along skipper Alastair Cook, but he was bowled by Dala in both England’s innings for eight, the second time facing 42 deliveries before having to walk back to the dressing room.

    Hales, who is yet to make his Test debut, got an inside edge on to the stumps in the second innings after Dala extracted a touch of extra bounce from back of a length. He bowled Hales while offering no stroke in the first innings.

    ‘I knew he hasn’t played Test cricket yet, so I knew he was under pressure,’ Dala told the Press Association.

    ‘I just came in and went hard at him, trying to expose the fact he is keen to score runs. It looks like he is trying to open up the off side every time he faces the ball. I just tried to keep it simple and tuck him up because he struggles on the leg side.

    ‘In the first innings I was hoping I would bring one back, but I wasn’t expecting him to leave it. Second innings was a bit back of a length, but the same plan, just tuck him up and he chopped it on. It’s nice when a game plan comes together.’

    Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Kagiso Rabada, South Africa’s likely pace attack for the first Test, will no doubt take note of what has transpired in Potchefstroom and try to build on that.

    Dala had the same idea in mind: ‘With the video analysis we do in cricket we felt we could expose a few of the English top order and maybe that could be good for the Proteas in the Test series.’

    England declared on 470-7 after batting first in the three-day warm-up, but bowled the SA Invitational out cheaply for 188.

    Ben Stokes, who scored 158 off 131 balls in England’s first innings, confirmed his full recovery from a shoulder injury by taking 2-25 with the ball.

    England will resume day three on 99-3 with Joe Root and Gary Ballance at the crease.

    Scorecard

    Picture: Getty Images

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