Vernon Philander’s well-paced half-century boosted the Proteas to 309-6 at stumps on day one at Trent Bridge. JON CARDINELLI reports.
Proteas skipper Faf du Plessis had asked his batsmen for more grit and application in the wake of their shocking display in the second innings at Lord’s. He wouldn’t have been disappointed with the initial response by the specialists at Trent Bridge, nor the performance by the all-rounders late in the day.
Du Plessis won the toss and decided to bat first, despite the overcast conditions and seamer-friendly track. The decision was vindicated when the visitors went to tea with only two wickets down. Indeed, South Africa looked to be in a strong position, thanks to the partnerships of Heino Kuhn and Hashim Amla (48 runs for the second wicket) and then Amla and Quinton de Kock (113 for the third).
Amla was beaten repeatedly by the likes of James Anderson and Stuart Broad, and even offered up a genuine chance to Alastair Cook at slip when he was on 55. Nevertheless, the veteran batsman showed exceptional composure to battle on. Earlier in the day, Amla became just the fourth South African to score 8 000 Test runs.
The decision to push De Kock up the order was also vindicated. De Kock showed patience and poise during the initial stages of his innings. Thereafter, he went after the bowling and reached his half-century in 59 balls.
That said, it was an overly aggressive stroke that led to De Kock’s demise as well as the start of a middle-order collapse. De Kock flashed at the first ball after tea, and this time Cook managed to hang on to the catch at first slip after a brief juggle. Broad struck again for England when Amla mistimed a hook shot and was caught at fine leg.
After fighting so hard to be 179-2 at tea, the Proteas were suddenly 194-4.
Du Plessis gloved a Ben Stokes delivery down the leg side and was well caught by wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow. Temba Bavuma, the last of the specialist batsmen, edged Stokes to Bairstow to leave South Africa at 235-6.
Those dismissals appeared to end the Proteas’ chances of posting a formidable first-innings total. Philander and Chris Morris reignited those hopes when they took the fight to the opposition late in the day.
Philander played some beautiful strokes through the off side after England took the new ball, and by the end of the session, Philander and Morris had put on 74 for the seventh wicket. Both will return to the crease at the start of day two with the aim of steering South Africa to 350-plus.
The good news for the Proteas is that the pitch is expected to deteriorate over the next four days. England should face the significant challenge of batting last on this track.
SA 309-6 (1st innings) – Hashim Amla 78, Quinton de Kock 68, Vernon Philander 54 not out, Stuart Broad 3-47
Photo: Gareth Copley/Getty Images