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Amla, Cook centuries take South Africa to 329/5

Rush of wickets in the final session pulls host back before Bavuma and de Kock gain back control of the match

Amla, Cook centuries take South Africa to 329/5 - Cricket News
Stephen Cook celebrates his half century.
After the horrors of the Wanderers last weekend, South Africa found comfort in an old fortress and a new opening batsman on the first day of its fourth and final Test against England in Centurion on Friday (January 22).

Picked to play the Test as South Africa’s 17th player of the series, Stephen Cook became the 100th batsman to score a century on Test debut and, in the process, set the host up for a formidable total. Stephen Cook’s 115 headlined a day on which Hashim Amla registered his 25th Test ton as well, as South Africa scored 329 for 5 after winning the toss and electing to bat.

On a pitch that is expected to develop inconsistent bounce over the second half of the match, it looks to be an excellent position so long as the host can build on it on the second morning. Temba Bavuma and Quinton de Kock are well placed to do so, having reached stumps on 32 and 25 respectively.

England was flat for the first two sessions, bowled countless boundary balls and also dropped a couple of catches. Stephen Cook was given a welcoming present first-up by James Anderson, flicking the first ball of the day off his legs for a boundary, and the early overs were sent down at a friendly pace with the batsmen unhurried.

There was some success for England in the first hour, with Moeen Ali introduced in the 11th over. Dean Elgar whipped his fourth delivery to the leg side, where James Taylor pulled off another wonder catch, this time doing everything he could to keep the ball up until it nestled between his legs.

When Ben Stokes found the edge of Amla’s bat in his first over, with the batsman on five, there was a chance to get on top. Instead, Alastair Cook was put off by a diving Jonny Bairstow, and the ball went to ground.

Amla and Stephen Cook went on to reach lunch on 107 for 1.

Stephen Cook enjoyed some fortune on 47 when an edge off Stuart Broad was put down by Bairstow, who only got fingertips to the ball, but thereafter the partnership swelled. The biggest roar of the day so far came in Broad’s next over when Stephen Cook’s square drive took him to 50, and Amla soon matched him. The 150 partnership came up from just 204 balls, and despite England’s best attempts to stop him with an eight-one field and an offside line, Amla’s hundred came up from just 131 deliveries shortly before tea.

Stephen Cook went to the interval on 91, and spent the better part of an hour in the nineties. That was in part because England was much improved at the start of the final session, bowling with greater discipline to a conservative field. The slowing rate duly brought a breakthrough, with Stokes sending down a quicker delivery to catch Amla on the move. With an inside edge rattling the stumps, the partnership was finally ended on 202 and Broad started the next over with a spring in his step. Stephen Cook endured a nervy few deliveries, and when he handed the strike to AB de Villiers, the captain played away from his body and edged to third slip.

The whole ground was on their feet soon after though, as Stephen Cook became the oldest South African to score a century on debut, and the fourth oldest overall.

England still threatened to crash the party, with Woakes bowling Stephen Cook off the inside edge and a recalled JP Duminy trapped lbw by the offspin of Moeen.

From 237 for 1, South Africa had slipped to 273 for 5 and a second new ball was due. Suddenly, 400, which must be seen as a minimum requirement here, looked a long way away.

But Bavuma and de Kock batted positively against the new ball and the boundaries began to flow again. An unbroken stand of 56 from 77 deliveries was just what was called for from South Africa, and it can finally reflect on a day when its batsmen made good.

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