Hashim Amla looks in good touch as the Proteas went into lunch on 94-2 on day one of the first Test against New Zealand in Durban.
It’s honours even so far. The Black Caps looked to be on the front foot with the early dismissals of Stephen Cook and Dean Elgar, but Amla appears to have remained in T20 mode as he hit nine boundaries on his way to 42 by the end of the first session.
Faf du Plessis, stepping in for his first Test as captain with AB de Villiers injured for the two-match series, won the toss and chose to bat first. As expected, Vernon Philander came in to the side for his first appearance in almost a year.
Kane Williamson seemed to breathe a sigh of relief when Du Plessis chose to take strike, with the Kiwi skipper revealing that they would have chosen to bowl first anyway. It wasn’t difficult to see why.
A sparse crowd welcomed the players on to the field, half-an-hour later than scheduled to allow the pitch to dry. Kingsmead, hosting its first Test in August, stayed true to the expected conditions in the first session, offering Trent Boult plenty of swing away from the left-handed Dean Elgar. Philander probably wished that he was out there.
Cook and Elgar navigated the swing well as Boult bowled relentlessly with the new ball. Elgar played and missed a few which motivated Williamson to keep Boult in the attack and eventually it paid off, but it was Cook’s, not Elgar’s, resistance to come to an end, the ball feathering the edge of the bat to BJ Watling to walk for 20 (53).
Doug Bracewell, coming in to the side as a fourth seamer, kept tempting Elgar from there. Elgar produced a brilliant cover drive in the first ball of the 17th over, but by the end of it, he was gone. Trying to produce the same shot, all he could do was edge it to second slip. He departed for 19, with South Africa on 41-2. It could be argued that Cook and Elgar did well to see off the first 17 overs.
JP Duminy then surprised everyone by striding out at No 4 ahead of Du Plessis. He had a couple of nervous moments as Williamson reviewed a catch which turned out to be a bump ball, but he hit several exquisite boundaries to go to 13, as he raced to a fifty stand with Amla. Amla, reminiscent of his T20 spells with Kings XI Punjab and Trinbago Knight Riders, contributed 40 of those as he went into the break on 42 off 41 balls.
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