VERNON PHILANDER and Chris Morris fully justified the Standard Bank Proteas decision to balance their side with two bowling all-rounders rather than the extra specialist batsman on the opening day of the second Test match against England at Trent Bridge in Nottingham on Friday.
After Faf du Plessis had won the toss and taken the courageous yet correct decision to bat first under overcast skies the Proteas were set up for a big total by the 113-run partnership for the third wicket between Hashim Amla and their new No. 4 Quinton de Kock.
However, they suffered a setback in the final session when they lost four wickets for 56 runs, including both Amla and De Kock, before Philander and Morris shared an unbroken partnership of 74 runs to get the Proteas to the close on a healthy 309/6. Philander finished with his second half-century of the series and currently has a series average of 124.
With the pitch showing signs of getting slower and the odd delivery – admittedly outside the line of the stumps at this stage – keeping low any total in the region of 400 could be more than useful.
Stuart Broad (3/47) was the most successful England bowler.
The one area that will concern the Proteas is that Dean Elgar was the only one of their eight batsmen to be dismissed for single figures but they are still looking for their first century of the series.
Du Plessis made the brave decision to bat first under overcast skies on a pitch with tinges of grass and his top order produced the character he had asked for to get to lunch on 56 for the loss of Elgar’s wicket in 23 overs in a session reduced by 20 minutes through rain.
Kuhn took something of a battering, taking nasty blows to the finger and to the back of his helmet but he showed the mental strength needed to hit 7 boundaries on his way to 34 runs (76 balls).
Amla, who survived an optimistic England review second ball after the rain break, looked comfortable as he pulled the second of his three boundaries to become the fourth Protea after Jacques Kallis, Graeme Smith and AB de Villiers to reach the milestone of 8 000 runs.
The pair had added 38 for the wicket by the break.
The pitch turned out to be on the slow side as England employed all four seamers with Wood probably the pick of the attack.
Kuhn was dismissed third ball of the fifth over after lunch but Amla and De Kock, revelling in his new position of No. 4, took the attack to England with the result that the Proteas were able to score 123 in the session without further loss. De Kock was the dominant partner, typically reaching his half-century off only 59 balls, while Amla was happy to settle into laying the foundation for a dominating total.
They effectively hit Dawson out of the attack with Amla reaching his half-century with a six off the left-arm spinner and De Kock taking two boundaries in his next over. Surprisingly, Root only brought on Moeen, his match winner at Lord’s for a four-over spell in the half-hour before the tea interval.
Stokes put in a good six-over spell before the break and was the only bowler to threaten the batsmen. He had Amla, on 56, dropped by Cook at first slip, and caused De Kock to play a couple of false shots – an inside leg to fine leg and an airborne cut that found the gap wide of the gulley fielder.
Amla reached tea on 65 (126 balls, 8 fours and a six) and De Kock on 68 (80 balls, 8 fours).
England made the perfect start to the final session when Broad dismissed De Kock first ball and then got rid of Amla three overs later. Stokes then chimed in with the wickets of Du Plessis and Bavuma before Philander and Morris halted a potential collapse with the second 50-run partnership of the innings.