Sam Curran registered his best figures in Tests as England reduced South Africa to 277 for 9 on Day One of the first Test at Centurion. Quinton de Kock offered some resistance during his knock of 95 to rescue South Africa after he walked in at 97 for 4. He stitched impressive partnerships with Dwaine Pretorius and then Vernon Philander to take South Africa closer to 300.
It was a perfect start for James Anderson on his 150th Test appearance as he got the wicket of Dean Elgar caught down the leg side off the very first ball of the match. Zubayr Hamza made batting look simple from there as he drove the fast bowlers with ease and looked much better than his skipper Faf du Plessis, who looked a tad uncomfortable. He was troubled by bouncers, he found it problematic against balls slightly outside. Nevertheless, he held fort at one end.
Today was just the fifth instance of him coming into bat at No. 4 this year. In his previous four innings, he averaged just 4.33. However, he stuck it out and survived till lunch. Hamza (39) and Aiden Markram (20) got off to starts but could not convert them into big ones as the hosts went into lunch at 79 for 3.
Du Plessis looked much more composed after lunch and also head a lucky escape when he was adjudged caught behind, but was then rightly overturned after he reviewed. But he did not last much longer as Stuart Broad found the outside edge, which was gobbled up by Joe Root at slips. However, debutant Rassie van der Dussen in his maiden innings was dismissed by Curran even before his skipper for nine.
Curran was in the middle of a terrific spell. He got the ball in and moved the ball away from the right-hander at will, which the batsmen barely picked. In between all this, de Kock raced to 20 in no time, playing some excellent shots. He was not afraid to drive the ball outside off despite of slips and a sweeper waiting at the fence. He had a ‘heart in the mouth’ moment when he skied the ball off Root, but despite a brilliant effort, Anderson could not hold on to the catch. Playing one shot too many was going to cost him, but he got a leash of life and South Africa would have wanted their wicketkeeper-batsman to cash in.
He did exactly that as he raced to a fifty off just 54 balls. It was stroke-filled but it was not short of drama as he lived dangerously, going after almost every delivery he faced. He had also put on a fifty stand with Pretorius, who too had a vital role to play in this partnership. The duo went into the third session having helped South Africa recover and the plan would have been to take their team closer to the 300-run mark in the final session of the day with minimum damage.
Barring Broad and Curran, no other bowler looked threatening enough. Archer was taken for plenty of runs in the first two sessions and the pressure was on the other three seamers to deliver.
In the third over of the final session, Curran was once again among the thick of things as he removed debutant Pretorius for a well-made 38 – once again caught at slip – but more importantly broke the 87-run sixth wicket stand.
De Kock started to play carefully once Pretorius was dismissed and was building a decent stand with Philander, much to England’s frustration. The 47-run stand came to an end when de Kock was caught behind for a counter-attacking 95, giving Curran his fourth wicket of the day. De Kock thus missed out on an opportunity to get his first century outside of batting at No. 7.
While Anderson struck off the very first ball of the day, it was his partner-in-crime Broad who finished things off in the end, removing Kagiso Rabada off the final delivery of the day, which was his 22nd scalp of the year, bowling to a left-handed batsman around the wicket.
In the end, South Africa will take this total at the end of first day’s play after a shaky start.
South Africa 277 for 9 (Quinton de Kock 95, Zubayr Hamza 39; Sam Curran 4 for 57, Stuart Broad 3 for 52) vs England