|Ground:||Kennington Oval, Kennington|
|Scorecard:||England v South Africa|
|Event:||South Africa in England 2012|
DateLine: 20th July 2012
England v South Africa, 1st Test, day 1 In association with Investec.
With a brilliant unbeaten century, his 20th in Tests, Alastair Cook guided England to a comfortable position on 267 for three. At stumps he was on 114, from 283 balls, having batted throughout the day. It seems to have become customary for England top order batsmen to perform well and true to pattern they did so on the opening day of the summer's second Test series, one that has been eagerly awaited between the world’s No.1 and No.3 ranked Test sides.
As also seen in the recently concluded series against West Indies, of the top three England batsmen, if one has an off day, the other two will readily oblige with a pile of runs. This time it was Cook and Jonathan Trott who took control of proceedings on a fine batting pitch after South Africa, having been asked to field first, had removed Andrew Strauss in the first over.
The England captain, after two centuries and a score of 45 in the three previous Tests, fell lbw without scoring as he played across the line of a ball from Morne Morkel. The appeal was turned down by umpire Steve Davis but the review was successful. Thereafter, Cook and Trott formed a solid partnership while the renowned pace attack of South Africa struggled to get a breakthrough. The first session, which began 15 minutes late owing to rain, produced 70 runs as the two batsmen consolidated the England innings.
After lunch Cook, in particular, and Trott, although still pretty watchful, played more shots. Cook had earlier cut Dale Steyn twice in successive overs for four and even hit a top-edged six off the same bowler in an over which cost 13 including five leg byes resulting from an overthrow. The rate of scoring went up in the second session with both batsmen reaching half centuries. Cook, having got to 42 with a lovely cover drive off Steyn, pushed the next ball effortlessly for a straight four and in the following over his seventh four, hit to mid-wicket from a long hop from Imran Tahir, brought up his 30th Test fifty from 98 balls as well as the hundred of the stand.
Trott had been steadier and took 127 balls for his eleventh Test 50 and soon after that played a glorious cover drive for four off Steyn. The 150 of their partnership came with Trott driving Jacques Kallis square to the point boundary and he followed that with a boundary off Tahir which saw him catch up to his partner's score of 68 and at tea England were 158 for one. Finally, in the fifth over after the break South Africa found the penetration they needed into the solid second wicket stand of 170 when Trott, on 71 from 162 balls, reached well outside off stump to drive a ball from Morkel and edged it behind the stumps.
Kevin Pietersen, who has been the topic of conversation in the last few days for the uncertainty of his participation in limited overs cricket, having opted out of one-day internationals but willing to play in Twenty20 matches to which the England Cricket Board is understandably not agreeable, began steadily and taking 23 balls before striking his first boundary. Cook went on picking up runs, an on-drive for four off Vernon Philander took him to 85 and with his tenth boundary he reached 90 taking the score to 200 for two.
A short ball from leg spinner Tahir was pulled by Cook to take his score to 95 and his 20th Test century from 222 balls came when he gently pushed Tahir for a single to cover. It was his second Test hundred of the summer and a superb, chanceless one with which he built a solid platform for England. Pietersen began to play more aggressively as his innings progressed. A powerful on-drive, typically played with a forceful bottom hand, off Kallis, took his score to 38.
Both batsmen made full use of the flat, grassless pitch, while six South African bowlers struggled during two excellent partnerships, first between Cook and Trott and then Cook with Pietersen adding 81 before the tourists struck in the last over before the second new ball was due. Pietersen was tempted into pulling a bouncer from Kallis and the batsman, on 42 from 72 balls, in going for the shot, only managed to glove the ball to the wicketkeeper which reduced England to 251 for three. Morkel finished with two of the three wickets that fell, conceding 44 runs from 18 overs.
(Article: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author only.
Copyright © 2012 Andy Jalil)