Former England opener Michael Atherton says it was ‘hard to explain’ and ‘a puzzle’ that the new ball was handed to Dane Paterson over Kagiso Rabada.
‘I don’t think it was the right call,’ he said after watching England move to the lunch break without loss.
Day one in PE
The Proteas limited England to 224-4 at the close of play on day one of the third Test at St George’s Park in Port Elizabeth on Thursday.
Captain Joe Root’s decision to bat first after winning the toss reaped early reward, as openers Dom Sibley and Zak Crawley ensured a wicketless first session. Sibley and Crawley fell in the second session, though. Both were caught on the leg-side.
Sibley’s timing was off in offering square-leg fielder Dean Elgar a straightforward catch. The second Test centurion perished to fast bowler Kagiso Rabada.
Fellow fast bowler Anrich Nortje was then at hand to dismiss Crawley. The Englishman fought hard for 44. His role has become all the more important in the ongoing absence of the injured Rory Burns. This time leg-gully Rassie van der Dussen took a sharp catch. Nortje bowled relatively straight to Crawley throughout and eventually succeeded.
Spinner Keshav Mahraj bowled unchanged for 30 overs. His marathon spell was rewarded with the dismissal of the dangerous Joe Denly. Wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock was commended for insisting on an lbw review. Rabada later rattled Root’s off-stump to move within three wickets of 200 in Test cricket.
All-rounder Ben Stokes relished some luck. He was dropped by close-in fielder Pieter Malan. The opportunity was difficult. Stokes then survived an lbw review and will resume alongside the promising Ollie Pope on Friday.
The second new ball is still relatively fresh. Nortje shared it with Philander. Debutant Dane Paterson had ineffectively shared the first new ball with Philander instead of Rabada or Nortje.
The Proteas have won 13 and lost 12 Tests at St George’s Park. They’ve also shared five draws. The last Test at the Port Elizabeth venue was in February 2019, when Sri Lanka beat South Africa inside three days.
This four-Test series is locked at 1-1. The Proteas won the first Test at SuperSport Park in Centurion inside four days. England triumphed late on the fifth day in the second Test at Newlands in Cape Town. The Wanderers in Johannesburg will host the fourth and final Test later this month.
South Africa: Dean Elgar, Pieter Malan, Zubayr Hamza, Faf du Plessis (c), Rassie van der Dussen, Quinton de Kock (wk), Vernon Philander, Keshav Maharaj, Kagiso Rabada, Anrich Nortje, Dane Paterson.
England: Zak Crawley, Dominic Sibley, Joe Denly, Joe Root (c), Ben Stokes, Ollie Pope, Jos Buttler (wk), Sam Curran, Dominic Bess, Stuart Broad, Mark Wood.