England moved to 67/2 at lunch on day one of the second Test against the Proteas at Newlands in Cape Town on Friday.
England captain Joe Root’s decision to bowl first after winning the toss yielded early reward on the back of a fighting half-century stand between opener Dom Sibley and the steely Joe Denly.
Sibley and Denly’s alliance was particularly important after the early fall of opener Zak Crawley. Added to the XI in the absence of the injured Rory Burns, who has been ruled out of the series due to a hurt ankle, Crawley perished in the third over.
He was undone by characteristically challenging line and length from seamer Vernon Philander, with wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock at hand for a straightforward catch. The wicket was a 52nd in 11 Tests for Philander at this venue. He will retire from international cricket at the end of this series in favour of a Kolpak contract with Somerset in English county cricket.
Fast bowler Kagiso Rabada then got rid of Sibley shortly before the break. De Kock was the catcher again. Denly will resume alongside Root for Friday’s middle session.
The Proteas replaced the injured Aiden Markram with debutant Pieter Malan. First Test debutant Rassie van der Dussen was retained ahead of the fit-again Temba Bavuma.
England fast bowler Jofra Archer, too, was sidelined from this match by an elbow injury. The out-of-form Jonny Bairstow was dropped from the XI. Crawley, middle-order batsman Ollie Pope and spinner Dom Bess were recalled.
The hosts lead the four-match series. They won the first Test at SuperSport Park in Centurion inside four days, thanks largely to a Player of the Match performance from wicketkeeper-batsman Quinton de Kock and seven wickets from Rabada.
St George’s Park in Port Elizabeth and the Wanderers in Johannesburg will host the third and fourth Test, respectively, later this month.
South Africa: Pieter Malan, Dean Elgar, Zubayr Hamza, Faf du Plessis (captain), Rassie van der Dussen, Quinton de Kock (wicketkeeper), Dwaine Pretorius, Vernon Philander, Keshav Maharaj, Kagiso Rabada, Anrich Nortje.
England: Dominic Sibley, Zak Crawley, Joe Denly, Joe Root (captain), Ben Stokes, Ollie Pope, Jos Buttler (wicketkeeper), Sam Curran, Dominic Bess, Stuart Broad, James Anderson.