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England hold advantage as Stokes and Pope rebuild

SA v Eng, 3rd Test, day one, report

All of England’s top six made starts on day one of the third Test with South Africa at Port Elizabeth, with the visitors finishing on 224/4.

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The morning session was very clearly England’s, with Zak Crawley and Dom Sibley batting through till lunch on a surface offering little assistance to South Africa’s seam attack, which included debutant Dane Paterson.

Sibley, looking solid in defence following on from his maiden Test century at Newlands, was the first man to fall as Kagiso Rabada made a timely breakthrough early in the second session, with the right-hander clipping to Dean Elgar at backward square leg.

Crawley, who moved to his highest Test score, fell for 44 in similar fashion from the bowling of Anrich Nortje, with Rassie van der Dussen the catcher this time round as he dove brilliantly to his right. 

Joe Denly, reliable in batting time, struggled to find runs. With Keshav Maharaj tying him down with his accurate and wily left-arm spin, England’s No.3 looked short of scoring options. He finally departed from his 100th ball faced, with his pad clipped in front as he looked to punch off the back foot. Joe Root fell three overs later, bowled by the pumped-up Rabada, and despite their patient work, honours appeared even with England 148/4.

Ben Stokes and Ollie Pope led the recovery with more in and while the former is the man of the moment, it was the youngster who was even more impressive during his 79-ball stay, hitting seven fours in an innings that was incredibly assured, particularly in negating any threat from the second new ball.

England will begin tomorrow with the momentum behind them, but will need Pope and Stokes to step above the performances of those who came before them; a thoroughly imposing first-innings total will have to be built on scores beyond fifty.

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