TELFORD VICE at Lord’s
A missed catch, a dropped catch and two errant feet cost South Africa dearly on the first day of their test series against England on Thursday.
Stumps came with the home side on 357/5 — a far cry from the 82/4 they had been reduced to at lunch, after Vernon Philander reminded this crowd what they had been missing since he last played a test here.
That was in August 2012, when he took 5/30 in the second innings to complete South Africa’s ascent to the No. 1 ranking.
Philander was in similarly rasping form on a green pitch on Thursday, taking 3/26 in the morning session and ending the day with 3/46.
But Joe Root and Ben Stokes answered South Africa’s early assault with a wicketless second session, taking England to tea on 182/4.
Root was still there at the close, undefeated on 184, which made him the sixth player to score a century in his first test as England captain.
With him was Moeen Ali, who was 61 not out in a stand that has swelled to 167.
Philander took his wickets with breathless efficiency, striking in the fourth over of the match when Alastair Cook prodded a catch to Quinton de Kock.
In his next over Philander trapped Keaton Jennings in front with a delivery that replays suggested had pitched marginally outside the left-hander’s leg stump.
Morne Morkel had Gary Ballance leg-before to reduce England to 49/3 inside the first hour.
Then Philander returned to send Jonny Bairstow packing, also lbw, in the third over before lunch.
Precarious though England’s position was, it could have been worse.
Root was five not out with the total 31/2 when he hooked Kagiso Rabada to fine leg, where substitute fielder Aiden Markram badly misjudged what should have been a straightforward catch.
Rabada also had Root dropped on 16 with the scoreboard reading 59/3, this time by JP Duminy in the gully.
Root and Stokes fought back for England with a partnership of 114 that was ended in the third over after tea when Stokes hooked at Rabada and was caught behind for 56.
South Africa thought they had broken the stand when it was worth 101 by way of Morkel bowling Stokes off his pads for 44. But the fast bowler had overstepped and the delivery was duly ruled illegitimate.
The error didn’t cost much in runs, but it only added to the gloom caused by the faulty fielding.
Moeen joined Root, and England’s resurgence resumed with a partnership that South Africa thought they had snuffed out for 104 when Keshav Maharaj had Root stumped for 149.
But the left-arm spinner’s foot had failed to cut the entire bowling crease and Root was thus reprieved again.
It didn’t help South Africa’s cause that Philander, who was passed fit before the match having turned an ankle two weeks ago while playing for Sussex, did not bowl more than three overs in a spell after his new-ball burst of five.
That, presumably, was what prompted stand-in captain Dean Elgar to turn to Theunis de Bruyn and Temba Bavuma, who bowled 10 overs between them.