Nick Compton and James Taylor’s 125-run partnership boosted England to 179-4 at the close of day one of the first Test.
England started the match at Kingsmead, and ultimately the four-game series, poorly. Captain Alastair Cook nicked off in the third over of the contest. Debutant Alex Hales perished in the first over after lunch, and then Joe Root’s dismissal left the visitors teetering at 49-3.
England needed a hero at that point. They got two. Compton fought hard to preserve his wicket. James Taylor was in an equally combative mood in the period before tea, and again after the break.
Thanks to the efforts of these two batsmen, England find themselves in a commanding position heading into day two. The platform has been set, and they will be looking to post a total in excess of 400. It’s a total that will place a Proteas batting collective that’s short on form and confidence under tremendous pressure.
Hashim Amla’s luck appeared to be changing when he won the toss. After assessing the overcast conditions, the Proteas skipper decided to bowl. He was vindicated when South Africa’s premier fast bowler, Dale Steyn, dismissed Cook and then Hales. Amla’s next big decision to bowl off-spinner Dane Piedt as early as the 18th over was rewarded with the wicket of Root.
And yet, South Africa struggled to build any momentum. The weather certainly played its part in this regard. The start of the game was delayed by 30 minutes. A further 60 minutes were lost in the first session due to lightning and rain around Kingsmead. Later, shortly after Root’s dismissal, another bout of rain allowed the England batsmen an opportunity to regroup. And boy, did they make that chance count.
Compton and Taylor managed to occupy the crease despite the initial intentions of Steyn, Morné Morkel and Kyle Abbott. The Proteas failed to build any pressure during this period, and were guilty of bowling too many bad balls. The England batsmen grew accustomed to the slow pace of the wicket. By tea, Compton and Taylor had steered the visitors out of trouble.
The performance was a big statement in the context of the Test and the series as a whole. 65.1 overs were bowled on day one. Compton and Taylor were together for 45.2 of them. They showed plenty of ticker in difficult circumstances. By contrast, the fight drained from the Proteas as the day progressed.
Steyn claimed his third wicket late in the day when Taylor edged the ball to wicketkeeper AB de Villiers. Steyn made this crucial breakthrough shortly before bad light stopped play. It’s a breakthrough that will give the South Africans some hope of a turnaround in this match.
England will look to consolidate their position in the first session of day two. The opportunity for Compton to score a century is there for the taking. The chance for England to post 400 is there when one considers how deep they bat. Their No 10, Stuart Broad, has already scored one century and 10 50s at this level.
The Proteas bowlers have to make early inroads on day two. They need to initiate a fightback of their own. South Africa’s chances of winning this match, and drawing first blood in this series, may depend on the team’s response during this period.
England 179-4 (1st Innings) – James Taylor 70, Nick Compton 63 not out, Dale Steyn 3-29, Dane Piedt 1-39