DateLine: 27th July 2017
By Andy Jalil at the KIA Oval
England batsmen make slow progress in third Test
London – On a rain-affected first day of the third Test, with 31 overs lost, England, with the help of a battling unbeaten innings of 82 from Alastair Cook, reached 171 for four when bad light brought an end to the day’s proceedings. Ben Stokes supported Cook in an unbroken stand of 51, remaining 21 not out.
South Africa struck an early blow when Vernon Philander had Keaton Jennings held in the fourth over without scoring. Having scored just 3 and nought in the previous Test and in fact only 44 in five innings in the current series he may well find himself dropped from the next Test unless he produces an extraordinary knock in the second innings. He looked uncomfortable during his brief stay at the crease and had been beaten twice prior to finally edging his drive to second slip.
Tom Westley, one of three players making their Test debut in this match, Dawid Malan and Toby Roland-Jones being the other two, supported Cook in a watchful second wicket stand of 52 before he too edged a slip catch. He could have left the ball, from Morne Morkel, which was outside the off stump and moving away but having struck five fours – one, off the spinner Keshav Maharaj through extra cover was a beauty – in his 25 runs, he was perhaps tempted to go for another.
Morkel and Philander were both bowling with good control and achieving considerable movement in cloudy condition. It was a bit of a surprise to see the England captain deciding to make first use of a pitch that in addition, to the cloud cover, had a green tinge. A stand of 49 between Joe Root and Cook took the total to 113 when Quinton de Kock brought off a marvellous one-handed diving catch off Philander to dismiss Root for 29. The ball moved away late and took the outside edge as Root played from the crease.
Rain stopped play for a second time on 114 for three soon after Malan had joined Cook. But this was a disappointing start for the debutant, who having got off the mark with a single from 17 balls, received an exceptional ball from Kagiso Rabada. It was an in-swinging yorker, ‘a toe crusher’, which caused Malan to fall in his crease as the middle stump got knocked over and England were 120 for four with Cook having reached his 55th Test half century.
At tea, England had progressed to 149 for four, with Cook on 72, Stokes on 10 and the rain set in for a somewhat lengthy break. The re-start was an hour and twenty minutes later and Stokes took his score to 17 with his first four – a slash off Philander – in 32 balls. That was followed by a glance for four by Cook, his first scoring shot after resumption. Three balls later, in the same over, he steered Morkel to the third man boundary to reach 80.
(Article: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author only.
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