Near-centurion Quinton de Kock carried the Proteas to a 277-9 at the close of play on day one of the first Test against England at SuperSport Park in Centurion on Thursday.
De Kock struck a counter-attacking 95 to smite a visiting bowling attack that had reduced the hosts to a precarious 111-5 prior to the tea break. He relished good support from all-rounders Dwaine Pretorius and Vernon Philander, who contributed 33 and 28 not out, respectively.
The hard-hitting left-hander enjoyed a particularly intriguing battle with part-time spinner Joe Root. De Kock was almost caught by slip fielder Ben Stokes twice and mid-off fielder James Anderson once. Root was the bowler on all three occasions.
Left-arm seamer Sam Curran eventually prevented De Kock from recording a fifth Test century. De Kock, like six of Thursday’s other eight dismissals, was caught behind the wicket. Wicketkeeper Jos Buttler, Stokes and fellow slip fielder Root, were indeed kept busy.
Earlier, opener Dean Elgar perished for a duck to the first delivery of the series. Fellow opener Aiden Markram, captain Faf du Plessis and the young Zubayr Hamza enjoyed solid starts, but failed to convert to innings of genuine significance. Debutant Rassie van der Dussen failed with just six.
Root won the the toss and opted to bowl first. This is the 150th Test between South Africa and England. The Proteas have only lost two Tests at SuperSport Park, having won 19 and drawn two.
South Africa: Aiden Markram, Dean Elgar, Zubayr Hamza, Rassie van der Dussen, Faf du Plessis (c), Quinton de Kock (wk), Dwaine Pretorius, Vernon Philander, Keshav Maharaj, Kagiso Rabada, Anrich Nortje.
England: Rory Burns, Dominic Sibley, Joe Denly, Joe Root (c), Ben Stokes, Jonny Bairstow, Jos Buttler (wk), Sam Curran, Jofra Archer, Stuart Broad, James Anderson.