Nick Compton and James Taylor have steered England to 121-3 at tea on day one of the first Test in Durban.
England, through the efforts of Compton and Taylor, have fought their way back into this contest. The visitors were in a difficult position at 49-3 when Joe Root was dismissed by Dane Piedt. Since Root’s departure, however, Compton and Taylor have added 72 runs and looked in complete control.
Much was made about Piedt’s selection ahead of this match, the first of a four-Test series between South Africa and England. Many felt that the best course of action was the backing of a four-prong pace attack that included Dale Steyn, Morné Morkel, Kyle Abbott, and Kagiso Rabada.
Those for the all-seam strategy would have been encouraged by overcast conditions at Kingsmead on the morning of day one. However, shortly after Hashim Amla won the toss and elected to bowl, the Proteas skipper confirmed that Piedt had been included in the XI and that Rabada was considered surplus to requirements. Amla felt that Piedt would have a key role to play as the contest progressed.
Dale Steyn made the initial breakthrough in a rain-affected first session. Following a 30-minute delay to the start of play, Steyn removed England captain Alastair Cook in the third over.
The rain returned to cut the morning session short, but it didn’t get any easier for England after lunch. Steyn struck in the first over after the break when he got debutant Alex Hales caught behind. At 12-2, England were in trouble.
Compton and Root clubbed together for a partnership that lasted more than 11 overs and yielded 37 runs. Compton and Root managed to weather the assault by Steyn, Morkel, and Abbott. The batsmen were fortunate at times, with the ball finding the outside edge and then the turf rather than a pair of South African hands.
Amla then made a big call an hour after the lunch break. He introduced the off-spinner in just the 18th over, and at a point in the contest where Compton and Root were just beginning to settle.
Piedt hit a superb length with his very first delivery, and the ball turned. Root failed to move his feet and the ball struck him on the back pad.
England’s best middle order batsman asked for a review after Aleem Dar lifted his finger. Unfortunately for the visitors, the replay showed that the ball was clipping the top of the middle stump. The on-field decision stood and Root was out lbw to Piedt for 24.
Shortly after the mid-session drinks break, the rain returned and the ground staff rushed on to the field to cover the pitch. This interruption helped England regroup.
Compton and Taylor proceeded to add 72 for the fourth wicket. More importantly, the pair ensured that England went to tea with only three wickets down.
England 121-3 (1st Innings) – James Taylor 41 not out, Nick Compton 40 not out, Dale Steyn 2-21, Dane Piedt 1-30