The Proteas took two wickets off no-balls, as Joe Root took his side to 357-5 by stumps on day one of the first Test at Lord’s.
It’s been a day in which the Proteas will be forced to reflect on what could have been. A missed chance and a dropped catch in the first session, and then the thing bowling coach Charl Langeveldt had been dreading: wickets off no-balls. There were two in the England Lions innings last week, and there were two more at Lord’s, on a day that saw England turn things around in the last two sessions.
And it was in large part down to the man who became the sixth Englishman to score a century on his captaincy debut, following in the footsteps of the likes of Alastair Cook, Kevin Pietersen and Andrew Strauss. Joe Root rode his luck at times, but it was an otherwise stellar knock from the 26-year-old.
The first session belonged to South Africa, looking to protect a record that has seen them unbeaten at the Home of Cricket since 1960. They lost the toss, but that didn’t bother Vernon Philander, who had figures of 3-26 by lunch. He saw off Alastair Cook for three and Keaton Jennings for eight, before finishing off the session with the wicket of Jonny Bairstow for 10. He made full use of the unpredictable seam movement and bounce.
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But the second session yielded no wickets, thanks to the new leaders of the England setup. Root and vice-captain Ben Stokes put on 104 runs after lunch. The only blemish was when Stokes was bowled by Morne Morkel (1-64) for 44, only for it to be called a no-ball. This, after Root was dropped by JP Duminy at gully when he was on 16. The Proteas simply weren’t pressing home the advantage when they had their tails up. Morkel holds the unwanted record of taking 12 Test wickets off no-balls.
One of the major problem areas for the Proteas is their lack of options with the ball. Stokes and Root had a clear plan to unsettle Keshav Maharaj and force him out of the attack, and it worked, as the spinner went for almost five an over. Theunis de Bruyn and Temba Bavuma tied up an end, but they didn’t provide the threat the visitors required when the regular pacemen needed to be rotated.
Kagiso Rabada (1-94) didn’t quite hit his straps as he would’ve liked on day one, but he did find the much-needed breakthrough to see off Stokes, as Stokes feathered one behind for 56.
Root then proceeded to bring up his 12th Test century off 150 balls, and he just kept going as Moeen Ali worked his way in.
The England skipper only took 43 more balls to reach his 150, but it could have been so different the ball before he brought it up. Maharaj (0-107), who proved to be much more of a threat from the Nursery End, got some extra turn on the ball which deceived a charging Root, allowing the simplest of stumpings for Quinton de Kock. Root held his ground, because replays revealed that Maharaj had overstepped.
The new ball handed little reprieve for the tourists, as Moeen brought up his fifty, and with that the 150 stand between the pair. By the end of the day, Root powered his way to an outstanding 184, which, as it stands, is the fourth-highest score by a player on captaincy debut.
The score was once 76-4, but that seems like a distant memory now. Mooen is on 61, and with the score on 357-5, Root and Co will look to power on in the morning session on day two.
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