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England noses ahead after fascinating day

South Africa loses its way after bright start but late recovery carries it to 267 for 7 at close on day one

England noses ahead after fascinating day - Cricket News
England ended the opening day of the third Test against South Africa as the marginally happier side, keeping South Africa to 267 for 7.
On a day that was overshadowed by details emerging of cricket’s latest match-fixing scandal, South Africa and England did a fine job of reminding the world about the game’s inherent charms. With a good balance between bat and ball on offer, a more traditional day of Test cricket ended with England marginally the happier side after keeping South Africa to 267 for 7 on day one of the third Test.
 
After winning the toss and electing to bat under cloudy skies, it was somewhat ironic that South Africa made an impressive start in the trickier conditions, then lost a handful of wickets when the sun came out in the second half of the day. However, it was guilty of a series of soft dismissals, with literally every batsman making a start but nobody even managing a half-century.
 
Only Hashim Amla, who fell for 40, could claim to have been on the receiving end of an unplayable delivery, although that is not to say that it was the only one that England produced on Thursday (January 14). Steven Finn was especially good throughout the day, beating the edge regularly and generally deserving better than his 2 for 50 from 18 overs. It was his beauty that proved too good for Amla, angling in and shaping away ever so late to take the edge.
 
South Africa lost regular wickets after Amla’s dismissal, falling from 117 for 1 to 185 for 5 and then 225 for 7, but had reason for cheer as Chris Morris and Kagiso Rabada batted an hour and saw off nine overs from the second new ball to reach stumps on 26 and 20 respectively. A score of more than 300 might not be as bad as it looks, and South Africa has done a reasonable job of papering over its shambolic start to the day.
 
As if its series had not been complicated enough, what with injuries to fast bowlers, miscalculations over who should keep wicket and a mid-series captaincy switch, its lead-in to the third Test was thrown into disarray by Quinton de Kock injuring his knee whilst walking his dog on Wednesday afternoon. When he woke in the night to discover the extent of the problem, South Africa was forced to put Dane Vilas on the first available flight from Port Elizabeth, where he was due to take the field for the Cape Cobras in a four-day game.
 
Although Vilas was never going to make it to the Wanderers in time for the first ball, AB de Villiers made the issue redundant in his first act as South Africa’s 10th Test captain since readmission when he won the toss and chose to bat. He also confirmed a debut for Hardus Viljoen, the fast bowler who formed a four-man pace attack that also comprised Morne Morkel, Rabada and Morris, as a fit-again Kyle Abbott missed out. An unchanged England side could watch on with bemusement.
 
When Dean Elgar and Stiaan van Zyl knuckled down to bat through the first hour without undue cause for alarm, de Villiers’s decision looked to have been vindicated. Even after van Zyl had produced a careless shot to get out for 21, top-edging a half-tracker from Ben Stokes, Elgar was joined by Amla and the pair eased to lunch and then through to the afternoon drinks break.


 
At 117 for 1, the platform appeared to have been set, but a thoughtless waft at a wide delivery from Moeen Ali saw Elgar edge behind for 46, and then Finn produced his pearl to get rid of Amla. De Villiers looked set to make up for those dismissals when he came flying out of the dressing room, a bundle of energy, and cruised to 36 from just 39 balls. But then he took on the wrong short ball from Stokes and got a thin edge to Jonny Bairstow, who effected his fourth straight dismissal.
 
Faf du Plessis had taken a more circumspect approach, which made the manner in which he lost his wicket the most frustrating of all for South Africa. With two men back on the legside, he didn’t even try to keep a flick off Finn down, and picked out Alex Hales at deep backward square-leg. With Temba Bavuma run out after a bright 23, and Vilas also picking out deep backward square after a promising 26, South Africa was on track for a poor total and would have had nobody to blame except itself.
 
However, an unbroken stand of 42 between Morris and Rabada showed that there is more lower-order grit in the Proteas side than has been thought. They played positively, producing some attractive drives down the ground as England’s seamers searched for the final three wickets with the second new ball. That search will continue on the second morning, when the opening exchanges will be key.

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