Stephen Cook looked assured in his first Test innings as he guided South Africa to 107-1 at lunch on day one.
Cook is 46 not out and closing in on a fifty on debut. He left well throughout the session and like Hardus Viljoen the week before, he hit the first delivery he faced in Tests for four.
It was a generous loosener from James Anderson which was flicked off Cook’s legs. Anderson struggled with rhythm in his first spell. He bowled too many bad balls and was punished every time which resulted in an economy rate of 3.8.
Perhaps AB de Villiers’ comments before the game that England’s bowlers (widely interpreted as referring to Anderson) have lost pace played on Anderson’s mind, but if it did, he didn’t do much to disprove the feeling that he has been largely anonymous in this series.
De Villiers said at the toss that the first hour of the morning would test the batsmen, but England didn’t really bowl well enough to exploit the conditions.
Cook and Dean Elgar (20) survived the first 50 minutes before the latter succumbed to a bizarre but ultimately excellent piece of fielding from James Taylor. Taylor’s catching in the short leg position at the Wanderers, specifically in South Africa’s second innings, made a big difference in Stuart Broad’s spell of destruction and he continued that sharpness here.
Elgar attempted to attack Moeen Ali by going down the wicket, but completely mishit the ball. Instead of going past the bowler down the ground the ball went square of the wicket into Taylor, who closed his legs and used his whole body to prevent the ball from falling to the ground.
It was an unfortunate dismissal for Elgar but Cook continued to bat well with Hashim Amla. He punished anything straying down the leg side as the bowlers continued to struggle with their lines.
Amla (34 not out) was dropped by Alastair Cook off Ben Stokes’s bowling after wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow dived in front of his captain to try to claim the catch.
South Africa had made five changes to the starting XI who played at the Wanderers. It was the first time since 1950 that they had made so many changes between Tests in a series.
Cook replaced Stiaan van Zyl at the top of the order, while Faf du Plessis was dropped in favour of JP Duminy.
Quinton de Kock is fit again and takes the wicketkeeping gloves from Dane Vilas. Dane Piedt also came back into the side for Chris Morris and Kyle Abbott for Hardus Viljoen.
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