Joe Root and Ben Stokes shared in a 104-run partnership as they took England to 182-4 by tea on day one at Lord’s.
If there were any questions whether the new leadership group could step straight into their new roles, then those were dispelled during the second session as the captain and vice-captain, Root and Stokes, strolled to fifties in their first innings on the job.
It was in stark contrast to the way the momentum swung in the morning session, as Vernon Philander tore apart the top order, with three wickets. But once again, England rode their luck.
A chance went abegging on the fine-leg boundary when Root was on five, and then JP Duminy let a chance at gully sail through his hands when he was on 16. As the second session was drawing to a close, Stokes was bowled for 44, but it was the same issue which plagued the South Africans in their tour match against the England Lions … Morne Morkel overstepped.
England went out after lunch delicately placed on 82-4. Philander got the ball to shape off the seam in both directions in the first session, which allowed him to see off Alastair Cook (3), Keaton Jennings (8) and Jonny Bairstow (10). After the break, Kagiso Rabada struggled to get the same movement.
Stokes took a liking to Keshav Maharaj as he tried to play him out of the attack. He smacked him for a six off the second ball of his second spell, and more times than not, at least one boundary came off his bowling each over as he struggled to sustain any pressure.
While Stokes was let off with that no-ball – a record 12th time Morkel has taken a wicket off a no-ball in Tests – the closest Root came to losing his wicket was when Dean Elgar opted to review an appeal for caught behind off Rabada. Replays revealed that it hit his helmet, but if it had hit his bat it would’ve been a controversial one, for the umpire failed to identify what appeared to be yet another no-ball.
Root brought up his fifty earlier in that over, and in the final over of the second session, Stokes (52) brought up one of his own, capping off a fine period for the hosts. Root (79) will go into the final session aiming for a 12th Test century. Plenty of questions for new skipper Elgar to ponder during the break, with England on 182-4.
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