South Africa claimed the honours at the close of play on day one of the second test against England at PPC Newlands in Cape Town on a sunny Friday afternoon.
A collective bowling performance from the home side saw England reach the close on 262 for nine after captain Joe Root had won the toss and elected to bat first. Many of the England line-up got starts but failed to kick on as the Proteas kept on nipping at their heels. Anrich Nortje (17-2-54-2) was impressive alongside Vernon Philander (16-3-46-2), playing in his final test at his iconic home ground while Dwaine Pretorius (11-5-26-2) picked up two crucial wickets before the new ball became available.
“It is very important to take wickets before the new ball. Because it makes tail shorter and I am glad to contribute,” said Pretorius after the day’s play.
“They had a lot of guys that got in today and then got out at the wrong times. I have not played much test cricket but a par score would be about 350. So I think they are about 70 runs short,” added Pretorius.
“The hardest thing when batting is getting to 30 so it was very frustrating getting out in the 30’s. But whether that is the wicket or the way we played we will see when we bowl,” said Ollie Pope during the end of play press conference.
The visitors had gone to lunch on 67 for two with both openers back in the hut. Zak Crawley (4) edged Philander through to Quinton de Kock behind the stumps at the end of the third over before a 55-run stand for the second wicket between Dom Sibley (34) and Joe Denly (38) restored the faith in Root’s decision to bat first.
“It is hard work getting wickets today but our discipline allowed us to get wickets at crucial times,” said Pretorius.
But with Kagiso Rabada (18-3-63-2) changing ends just before lunch, worked a charm and the South African speedster had Sibley edging to De Kock just before the lunch break. South Africa might have just had their noses in front at the lunch break but the middle session was shared as England moved to the tea break on 149 for four with Ben Stokes (47) looking set for a big innings.
Despite Denly, Root (35) and Stokes looking to give England the advantage, Nortje proceeded to claim the big wicket of the England captain, who had just been dropped by Rassie van der Dussen at first slip off Nortje’s bowling. But the missed chance did not cost the South Africans as Nortje bowled a snorter of a short ball which Root gloved through to De Kock.
Nortje then grabbed the wicket of Stokes after the tea break, with Stokes chipping a ball straight to Dean Elgar in the cover-region after cracking six fours and a six from 77 deliveries. Once Stokes departed, 22-year old Ollie Pope (56 not out) tried to maintain some momentum in the innings but was running out of partners fast.
Pretorius then grabbed the wickets of Jos Buttler (29) and Sam Curran (0), who comically left a ball outside off-stump, only to see his off-stump cartwheeling backwards. With the tail exposed and the new ball available, Faf du Plessis did hesitate in grabbing it and both his strike-bowlers responded.
“I was going at less than one run to the over and then he (Buttle) hits me for a boundary and that means that I am not doing not doing my job. Glad I got his wicket because Jos can take the game away from you,” said Pretorius.
Philander had Dominic Bess edging to De Kock with the first ball for a golden duck while Rabada produced a peach of a Yorker to clean-bowl Stuart Broad (1). The two quick wickets had South Africa facing the prospect of having to bat for around six overs but Pope marshalled James Anderson (3 not out) to the close with an unbeaten 10th-wicket partnership that lasted all of 39 minutes and 43 deliveries.
“You are always going to have a partnership in the game and it is important that we nullify the danger that it can have but we want to come back tomorrow and finish it quickly,” ended Pretorius.
“The way we played it was the right thing to do and it was quite smart. Hopefully tomorrow we can keep going a little bit more,” said Pope.
Pope had thought that he had given his wicket away at the end of the day when he was caught at fine leg by Philander off Rabada but the umpires checked for a no-ball and Rabada had over-stepped, allowing Pope to continue the 10th0wicket frustration.
“Bowlers are always trying to get you out. Rabada got me out with a bumper but he just stepped over the line,” quipped Pope.
“If Jimmy can get through the first few balls tomorrow and we can add another 30 or so runs then I think we will be happy,” ended Pope.
Pope, who batted for all of three hours and faced 132 balls, struck seven boundaries to bring up his second test half-century in just his fifth match.
** as published on www.supersport.com