A 202-run partnership between Stephen Cook and Hashim Amla made it South Africa’s day, despite a mini batting collapse in the final session.
South Africa managed 329-5 on a good batting track at Centurion, thanks largely to Cook (115) and Amla (109) who were excellent batting together.
Cook became the sixth South African and third opener to score a century on debut with his father Jimmy, a former South Africa batsman who scored a golden duck on his debut against India in 1992, looking on from the stands.
At 33 Cook also became the oldest South African to score a hundred on debut. He was comfortable from the start and just looked like a proper opening batsman. In fact, he looked like he had been playing Test cricket for years.
He spent quite some time in the nineties and survived a lbw review by England on 98. The umpire’s call stood as the ball just about clipped the leg stump, but he punched the ball through the leg side shortly afterwards to celebrate a proud moment for him and his family.
Amla was just as impressive in scoring his 25th Test hundred. Both he and Cook were dropped in their innings and England will lament those missed opportunities, especially considering what happened next.
England’s bowling in the first two sessions were well below par and without any intensity. Ben Stokes was the best of the lot but generally England failed to put the Proteas batsmen under any significant amount of pressure.
They improved after tea and when Amla was bowled by Stokes thanks to an inside edge, things threatened to unravel pretty quickly for the home side.
South Africa lost four wickets for just 36 runs, the sort of implosion that has become too familiar to fans over the last three months. They went from 237-1 to 273-5 as AB de Villiers was dismissed for his second duck in a row.
De Villiers played a mystifying shot to the second ball he faced, supplying Joe Root with an easy slip catch. It was a poor shot and maybe an indication that the captain’s mind has been on everything but his batting over the last couple of weeks.
Cook followed 10 overs later before JP Duminy continued his poor record against off-spin when he misjudged a Moeen Ali delivery to be trapped lbw to a bowl which kept lower than he anticipated.
It was an unnecessary shot in the circumstances, the second new ball being just three overs away, as the left-hander tried to pull the ball through the leg side but missed. Temba Bavuma didn’t support Duminy’s consideration to review so on his way he went.
Bavuma (32) and Quinton de Kock (25) consolidated the innings towards the end and reached a 56-run partnership before stumps was called.
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