England are in control of the first Test against the Proteas, as Alastair Cook’s half-century gave them a 216-run lead going into day four at Lord’s.
The Proteas’ resources are dwindling at a similar rate to their chances of getting anything out of this match. The visitors can only hope that Vernon Philander’s hand injury isn’t bad enough to prevent him from bowling on day four.
The paceman, who took a blow to the hand off James Anderson’s bowling while batting during his vital 52, was unable to bowl in England’s second innings. X-rays revealed no fractures, but he’s in visible discomfort, and after removing three of the top four in the first innings, his absence has been telling.
It was salt rubbed into the wounds with the news that Kagiso Rabada will be suspended for the second Test at Trent Bridge, and Alastair Cook and Keaton Jennings cashed in with an 80-run stand off the back of an 97-run stand, this after the Proteas were bowled out for 361.
The Proteas started the day on 214-5, and they had Quinton de Kock and Vernon Philander to thank for lifting them to what was a respectable total despite England’s 458. Nightwatchman Kagiso Rabada was the first to fall for 27 and Temba Bavuma followed for a well-played 59, both falling to snicks, thanks to the respective spin duo of Liam Dawson (2-67) and Moeen Ali (4-59).
Then came the blitz from Quinton de Kock. His case to bat higher up the order will be intensified with each knock he plays like this one. He scored the second-fastest half-century at Lord’s, the 36 balls he took one delivery slower than Indian legend Kapil Dev in 1982.
A fine catch from Ben Stokes saw him off for 51 just on the stroke of lunch, and Philander then added 52 before becoming Moeen’s fourth victim of the innings.
It will be interesting to see how long England will want to bat on day four now. With only one wicket lost, they have the freedom to decide. Cook and Jennings played it cautiously, going at just over two an over before Morne Morkel (1-25) struck. A bottom edge from former U19 skipper Jennings effected the crucial breakthrough for him to walk for 33.
Cook seemed unperturbed by the run rate and seemed content to survive the day, seeing off 51 overs. Cook took 127 balls to reach his fifty, and when he got there he was on 11 111 career Test runs. It was testimony to the experience he has, fitting in comfortably to his non-captaincy role. Gary Ballance held firm with him to share in a 38-run stand.
Cook will go into day four on 59, Ballance on 22, with England well in control on 119-1. A lot of the Proteas’ hopes of getting something out of this match will hinge on Philander’s ability to bowl on day four.
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