An indifferent bowling performance by South Africa allowed England to finish day one of the second Test at Newlands strongly on 317-5.
While much of the focus has been on South Africa’s struggling batsmen, the focus has, for the time being, shifted to an inexperienced bowling attack who toiled hard on a good batting wicket amid some confusing tactics by captain Hashim Amla.
Ben Stokes (74 not out) ensured his team finished the day firmly on top as he batted with a strike-rate of around 80 and took on the second new ball with aggressive intent as England’s run-rate climbed to more than three and a half runs an over.
His innings resulted in an unbeaten 94-run partnership with Jonny Bairstow which will continue on day two as England scored 46 runs in the five overs after South Africa opted to take the second new ball.
Amla, whose captaincy is under scrutiny following a dismal run of results for the team and him personally, made some confusing, if conservative, decisions towards the end of the day.
For starters, he gave the second new ball to debutant Chris Morris and Kagiso Rabada instead of the experienced Morne Morkel, who is supposed to be the spearhead of the attack in the absence of Dale Steyn.
In a conservative move, Amla gave them only two slips and a third man even after Morris found the outside edge which flew in the direction of third slip.
Rabada struck with the first ball after tea to remove James Taylor for a golden duck, giving Rabada two wickets in consecutive balls after he had Compton caught before tea. The hat-trick wasn’t to be but South Africa had two crucial breakthroughs and the momentum on their side.
Morris got his first Test scalp when he had Joe Root caught behind for 50 after he shared a 56-run partnership with Stokes.
With South Africa’s depleted bowling attack it’s perhaps unfair to criticise them too much considering they are missing Steyn and Vernon Philander, but Amla’s tactics has to be questioned, as well as the way in which he used the bowlers at his disposal.
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