Alastair Cook and Jonathan Trott dominated the South African bowlers in the afternoon session on day one of the first Test as England comfortably reached 158 for one at tea at The Oval on Thursday.
Although England started badly with the loss of captain Andrew Strauss to the fourth ball of the day, the seemingly indomitable Cook (69 not out) and Trott (on 68) fought back with a dogged spirit and punished anything wayward.
Cook reached his half-century with a slapped pull shot off leg-spinner Imran Tahir over midwicket for four when the bowler dropped short in his length. Trott's 50 came up with possibly the best shot of the day, certainly the most elegant, when he effortlessly pushed a Dale Steyn ball through extra cover for four.
England, which won the toss when there was rain in the air before the sunshine broke through after lunch, is seeking to hold on to its top ranking in Test cricket, as South Africa can leapfrog it if it wins the three-match series.
It has been an impressive recovery by England after Strauss was leg before to Morne Morkel. The initial ‘not out’ decision by umpire Steve Davis had to be overturned after a successful Proteas review.
Morkel was bowling around the wicket to left-hander Strauss, who played around a straight delivery and the replay revealed the ball would have struck the top of middle stump.
The partnership between Cook, who pulled fast bowler Steyn for six in the morning session, and Trott had spanned just short of four hours at tea.
Trott raised the 150 stand when he threw his bat at a wide delivery from Jacques Kallis, for another boundary. The duo has previously batted for long periods of time together, having added an unbeaten 329 in Brisbane against Australia in 2010 and 251 against Sri Lanka in 2011.
Rain delayed the start by 15 minutes and the floodlights were turned on 25 minutes after the start as heavy cloud rolled in. But the weather cleared and the afternoon session was played in sunlight.
Good news for Boucher
Meanwhile in Cape Town, it was announced that the freak accident involving South Africa wicketkeeper Mark Boucher left his eye less severely injured than initially thought, doctors said after he underwent a second operation on Thursday.
“The important parts of the retina were intact, confirming previous findings,” the medical team said in a statement.
“The blood which accumulated due to the trauma was removed. There were no complications, no bleeding, and nothing else unexpected.”
The 35-year-old's left eyeball was torn by a dislodged bail off an Imran Tahir delivery during a warm-up match last Monday.
Doctors had feared he would be left totally blind in the damaged eye, but the prognosis has improved over time.
Keywords: England-South Africa Test match