UNITED KINGDOM: After winning the toss, South Africa quickly gained control of the situation and made the most of the cloudy skies at Lord’s, picking up six wickets before the afternoon’s play was cut short by rain.
After being given the all-clear to play, Kagiso Rabada struck out both of England’s starters in his opening spell before Marco Jansen and Anrich Nortje increased South Africa’s advantages.
For the first time this summer, Dean Elgar asked England to lead with the bat, citing “overheads” (all four of the Tests won under Ben Stokes’ captaincy have been predicated on the model of chasing a target in the fourth innings).
Despite an energetic half-century from Ollie Pope, his seam attack then reacted with the ideal balance of technique and aggression to leave England reeling.
Pope and Stokes put together England’s highest fruitful fifth-wicket stand—45— but Nortje broke it up with the last delivery before lunch and then grabbed his third soon after, dismissing Ben Foakes with a ball that swung back off the inside edge. By this time, there was a return of dense cloud cover, and the anticipated rain soon followed. The rain was so intense that a late tea was consumed at 3.10 p.m.
The focus of the morning quickly shifted to how Stokes’ team might tailor their preferred batting style to set up a game in the face of a probing examination from South Africa’s four quicks after Elgar said he was “not going to entertain” anymore talk of Bazball, as England’s new method of playing Test cricket, has been dubbed.
Alex Lees managed to escape with a bold swipe that flew over the slip cordon but collapsed in the same over before wafting away from his body and being caught behind.
Zak Crawley aimed to navigate a thorough examination around off stump while largely packing away his aggressive strokes. Crawley was kept on as Lees’ opening partner despite averaging 17.75 from his previous four Test matches this summer.
Rabada’s wobble-seam delivery, which produced just enough movement to find the edge and present a low catch to the cordon after he gave a thick outside edge into the gully for a second boundary, ultimately proved fatal to him.
While doing his best to view a comprehensive examination around off stump and mostly packing away his aggressive strokes, Zak Crawley, who was kept on as Lees’ opening partner despite averaging 17.75 from four prior Tests this summer, tried to bat around off stump.
However, after giving a thick outside edge through a gully for a second boundary, Rabada’s wobble-seam delivery, which produced just enough movement to reach the edge and present a low catch to the cordon, proved to be his downfall.
When South Africa requested a review of Lungi Ngidi’s lbw appeal against Pope, they were unsuccessful, but things turned around when Jansen made a break in his subsequent over. Nitin Menon raised his finger in response to the most courteous of pleas against Joe Root after declining another lbw shout that ball-tracking evidence suggested would have just nicked the top of Pope’s leg stump.
The former captain of England, who had scored 190 in his previous match against South Africa at Lord’s, was on his way after DRS upheld the umpire’s decision.
Jonny Bairstow entered the series after a standout performance against New Zealand and India. But after four hundreds in five innings, Nortje moved one back through the gate to smash middle stump and leave England 55 for 4, giving him the 16th duck of his Test career.
At his sixth ball, Stokes did make a recognisable charge, swiping and missing at Jansen. He also flirted with danger while hitting the boundary four times, becoming just the second England batter to reach double digits.
In the last over before lunch, an edge off Pope escaped the diving Keegan Petersen at third slip, which was fortunate for him. However, Nortje holds a great morning performance for South Africa to a close by jagging one away to find Stokes’ outside edge and put an end to a slight recovery.
Score: England 116 for 6 (Pope 61*, Broad 0*) vs South Africa