Cape Town - Joe Root celebrated his debut performance as England’s Test match captain with his 12th career century on the opening day of the first Test match against the Proteas at Lord’s in London on Thursday.
It was also his second century against South Africa and the higher of his two, beating the 110 he made at the Bidvest Wanderers Stadium last year.
England finished the day on 357/5 with Root unbeaten on 184 (227 balls, 26 fours and a six). His performance spearheaded an England fightback after the Proteas had picked up four wickets in the morning session after losing the toss in good batting conditions, thanks in the main to Vernon Philander who picked up three of the wickets.
The England fightback was led by a partnership of 114 between Root and Ben Stokes for the fifth wicket and another century stand between Root and Moeen Ali for the sixth.
A lot of South Africa’s problems were of their own making as they missed two chances in the field by the time Root had made 16 and also later dismissed Stokes and Root with deliveries that were disallowed as no balls.
The opening session was well-nigh perfect for the Proteas apart from two expensive lives given to Root. He was on 5 with the total on 31/2 when Rabada surprised him with a short ball that the England captain top-edged to fine leg. Aiden Markram, briefly on the field as a substitute for Philander, came too far infield and the ball dropped over his head for a one bounce boundary.
Rabada, on 16, was unlucky again when Duminy couldn’t get his hands to a chance Root offered in the gulley.
In spite of these chances created Rabada bowled too many deliveries wide of the stumps as he struggled to come to terms with the Lord’s slope from the Nursery Ground end but, apart from three no balls from Philander and Morkel, in the first three overs it was largely a well-disciplined bowling performance from the three seamers supported by three tight overs from Maharaj immediately before lunch.
Philander led the attack superbly, taking 2/17 in a five-over opening spell that accounted for both the opening batsmen, and then got rid of Bairstow in a three-over burst before lunch to have a combined analysis of 3/26 in 8 overs.
Root apart, the England batsmen displayed very tentative footwork against Philander and he was able to cash in.
Morkel chimed in with the fairly predictable wicket of Balance who continues to bat from deep in his crease, making himself a prime candidate for a leg before wicket decision and that turned out to be the case.
It left England on 82/4 at lunch in 25 overs which gave the first session comfortably to the Proteas after Elgar had lost his first toss at captain.
The Proteas gave Heino Kuhn his maiden Test cap and persisted with their normal strategy of playing seven specialist batsmen.
England counter-attacked effectively in the second session as Root and Stokes added exactly 100 in the session from the 27 overs bowled without a wicket going down. By the tea break they had shared a stand of 106 in 29.3 overs and had largely undone the damage that had been inflicted in the first session.
Stokes, apart from hitting Maharaj for a six, batted with commendable restraint and it was reflected in the way the two batsmen dove-tailed with Root hitting his 28th half-century off 89 balls with 7 fours and Stokes reaching the same mark off 94 balls, also with 7 fours in addition to his one six.
The Proteas lost a wonderful opportunity to break the stand when Morkel bowled Stokes on 44 with a delivery that was a big no ball and was adjudicated without going to the third umpire.
The Proteas did not bowl as well as they had done in the morning session. Their lines were a pit too straight and both batsmen cashed in with most of the boundaries coming through the leg-side.
England finished the session on 182/4 with Root just 21 runs away from his 12th Test match century.
Rabada finally broke the partnership in the third over of the final session when the temptation of a short ball proved too much for Stokes (56 off 108 balls, 8 fours and a six) after a partnership of 114.
The day’s play had reached a critical stage as England posted their 200 followed by Root’s century (150 balls, 15 fours). It was his 12th Test century overall and his second against South Africa.
Any thought that the Proteas had of making a major breakthrough and restricting England to a total in the region of 300 was quickly snuffed out by Root and Moeen who posted a century partnership for the sixth wicket off only 108 balls.
Their ugly no ball problem raised its head again when Root was given his third life this time by Maharaj who overstepped the mark after Quinton de Kock had stumped him on 149.
Moeen went on to reach his 50 off 81 balls with four fours just before the second new ball became available.