Stephen Cook and new partner Quinton de Kock put on 100 on the dot at lunch on day one of the second Test against New Zealand.
Cook, playing the anchor, was on 40, while De Kock, who was promoted to open after Dean Elgar was injured on Friday night, was playing with ever increasing confidence, passing his fourth Test fifty and going in with 58.
The Proteas plans were disturbed on Friday evening when Elgar turned his ankle during fielding practice and ruled out. Stiaan van Zyl was brought into an otherwise unchanged side from the first Test, and placed at No 7.
It has been a particularly resolute show by the Proteas, who were sent in to bat on a pitch, which with a generous covering of grass, was expected to assist the bowlers. Indeed, there was a moment of hope when Trent Boult thought he had Cook lbw in the fourth over, but umpire Paul Reiffel believed, and was proved right, that there was a faint inside edge.
Both openers played with extreme caution, and although there were a few nervous moments from great deliveries – more than one boundary came from an edge – they were prepared to wait. The fifty came up in the 15th over after an hour’s play, with a four from De Kock; the ninth of the innings. It was, we were told with much glee, just the third fifty opening partnership in a home Test since Graeme Smith retired in 2014, since when 19 innings have been played.
In an effort to change the pace and make something happen, left-arm spinner Mitchell Santner was brought in as early as the 18th over, but the batsmen were not to be tempted and the experiment was quickly abandoned.
The Kiwis, though, lost a great chance for a breakthrough when De Kock, on 42, offered a thick inside edge off Bracewell, but keeper BJ Watling, standing wide of the off stump couldn’t hold on with a despairing dive. Cook also escaped when on 36, trapped lbw by Neil Wagner. But umpire Ian Gould said no and the Kiwis did not bother to review it. Bad move.
Those could be costly chances.