Vernon Philander took three wickets in the morning session on day one at Lord’s as England head into lunch struggling on 82-4.
First blood South Africa. The Proteas’ strength lies in their three-pronged pace attack, and two of them were clinical. Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel got the ball to seam off the pitch with some variable bounce, and, with the help of England’s failure to use the DRS system effectively, they sorted out the hosts’ top three with ease.
New skipper Dean Elgar said he would’ve wanted to bat, as opposite number Joe Root had no hesitation in sending them out on to the field. This might yet prove to be the right call, but the visitors, looking to protect an unbeaten record at Lord’s that stretches to 1960, certainly aren’t complaining.
Keaton Jennings and Alastair Cook looked uncomfortable out there, and after three overs of toil, Philander got one to seam and bounce away from Cook (3) and it yielded the first wicket as Quinton de Kock took an easy grab.
That brought Gary Ballance to the crease, which meant that all 13 players out there were southern African. The nerves of starting his third England stint showed with his role in Jennings’ dismissal. Philander found some late swing to trap Jennings on the pad, with Ballance telling Jennings to walk. Reviews showed it pitched outside the line, and was missing leg stump. The former SA U19 skipper gone for eight.
Another poor review decision followed, and Ballance was the victim this time. Trapped in front from a Morkel (1-27) delivery that skidded off the surface a bit, Ballance reviewed it and it was hitting middle and leg. The man who averages 101 in County cricket this season walked for 20.
Then came a bit of fight from Root and Jonny Bairstow. They were helped by a couple of fielding errors. Aiden Markram misjudged a Root top edge on the fine-leg boundary when he was on five, and he was then dropped on 16, as JP Duminy ‘tipped it over the bar’ as the ball came flying towards him at gully. It was a chance he should have grabbed.
Just on the stroke of lunch came another breakthrough, and Philander was the man to do it again. There were no discussions about the lbw decision this time. Philander shaped one into Bairstow, and he was trapped on the back foot to walk for 10.
It’s been the Philander show so far, making full use of the conditions to head into lunch with figures of 3-26. England are struggling on 81-4, and will rely on their new leaders, Root (33) and vice-captain Ben Stokes (4) to come to the rescue.
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