England happy to bat out day one, but only just
The fact that England weren’t bowled out on the first day represented a qualified success for them, but a first day total of 262/9 on day one of the second Test at Newlands on Friday sounds like underachievement.
They won the toss, tussled evenly with the hosts in the earlier sessions (two each in the early sessions with 67 and 82 runs respectively), but lost more wickets than they would have wanted (five) on the first evening while scoring 113 in 32 overs.
There is a platform for their bowlers. But the feeling remains their batsmen could have, and should have, done more with the manner in which they progressed during the day.
Barring Zak Crawley, who was removed early by Vernon Philander, England’s front-line batsmen all crossed 25, but none of them kicked onto something significant.
Dominic Sibley (34), Joe Denly (38), Jos Buttler (29) and Joe Root (35) all got deliveries that would have dismissed them on any type of surface.
Only Ollie Pope, who was unbeaten on 56 having been caught off a Kagiso Rabada (2/63) no-ball by Vernon Philander (2/46), made his start count.
Ben Stokes (47) on the other hand, gave his wicket away when beginning to display the batting potency that saw him collect 258 on his last visit here.
He somehow tamely chipped to Dean Elgar at short cover off Anrich Nortjé (2/54).
He dropped his head in despair, knowing full well that at 185/5 England were about to waste a good position and he was well set.
South Africa’s bowling accuracy on a slowish surface that offered true bounce and reasonable seam movement was typified by Quinton de Kock’s five catches.
The only one that was wasn’t regulation, but easy nonetheless, was when Nortje bounced out Root.
Two balls before, Rassie van der Dussen grassed a sharp but gettable chance as De Kock again dived in front of him.
While De Kock took stunning diving catches to snaffle Sibley and Crawley, both times he dived well to his right.
Excellent as they were, they betrayed a lack of trust in Van der Dussen, continuing the ill-slip catching trend that bedevilled South Africa during the Boxing Day Test.
The other De Kock catches were routine, displaying how well South Africa’s bowlers stuck to their lines.
South Africa, though, maintained their bowling disciplines and prevented England from establishing a batting bridgehead after they won the toss and batted first.
There were two 50-run stands between Sibley and Denly for the second wicket and Stokes and Pope for the fifth wicket that showed what was possible with reasonable application.
None of those mushroomed into something significant, but the 28-run last wicket stand between Pope and James Anderson (3*) has some momentum-shifting potential.
Sam Curran (9) shouldered arms to a Dwaine Pretorius (2/26) in-ducker while Stuart Broad (1) displayed his increasingly comical aversion to batting when he was castled by Rabada.
There wasn’t much Dom Bess (0) could do when he tickled Philander’s first delivery with the second new ball to De Kock while Denly was foxed by a Keshav Maharaj (1/68) arm ball.
Whether the pitch does have some sort of demons or England really didn’t capitalise on their starts will be seen on Saturday when SA get their batting turn.