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ENG v SA, 3rd Test Day 1 Review: Cook’s resolve the saving grace for England

Cook was at his best keeping the South African bowlers at bay on a rain curtailed day at The Oval.

Alastair Cook
England’s Alastair Cook was the only bright shining light for England on a gloomy day. (Photo by Nigel French/PA Images via Getty Images)

Alistair Cook stood firm amidst yet another middle order collapse for England. His opening partner Keaton Jennings was out without scoring, recording his fourth straight single digit score in this series so far. South Africa went in this game with a pace-heavy attack, a move which was vindicated by their bowlers.

England played an extra batsman

In a bid to strengthen their batting, the hosts added an extra batsman as they handed a debut to Dawid Malan, who replaced Liam Dawson in the side and batted at No. 5. Besides Malan, Tom Westley was the other debutant coming in at No. 3 as Ballance was ruled out due to a finger injury. Both didn’t do much of note as they were dismissed for 1 and 24 respectively. England were lucky that Philander could bowl just four overs with the new ball before he went off as he was suffering from an upset stomach. But his short burst with the new cherry was good enough to give the visitors an early breakthrough, as the all-rounder had Jennings caught at third slip.

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Morkel wasn’t at his best, giving away 28 runs in his first spell of 6 overs. He later slipped into his gear as he conceded just 20 in his next ten though he remained wicketless. Debutant Westley was helped by Morkel’s leg stump line as he whipped him to the on side boundary to record his first runs in Test cricket. Westley’s first sixteen runs came off boundaries, the first two off Morkel, both neat tucks off his pads. After adding 52 for the second wicket with Cook, Westley nicked one off Morris and was caught at second slip by the South African skipper.

Philander returned in the second session to get the big wicket of Joe Root (29). Just when England looked comfortable with their best batter – Root and Cook – bringing up a fifty run stand, Philander got the better of the English captain with some help from de Kock, who took a fine one handed catch t his right. Rabada struggled a little early on, despite bowling a lot in the nets during his one match suspension at Trent Bridge. He eventually hit the right notes and worked over the other debutant, Dawid Malan. The left-hander ended up on the floor trying to dig out an outgoing yorker off the 22-year old.

Cook’s stoic resolve

Cook remained unflustered by the fall of wickets at the other end. He provided the much-needed succor for the hosts on a gloomy day at the Oval which was marred by rain throughout the day. Only 59 overs were possible before a shower during the last hour of the day forced the players to exit from the ground. The former English captain remained unbeaten on 82 at stumps, at the cusp of a 31st Test hundred. He was provided good support by Ben Stokes, who remained unbeaten at 21. Both have added 51 runs for the fourth wicket and must build on this tomorrow morning from England’s point of view.

South Africa will be pleased by the proceedings on Day one. They went in this game with the exact same combination the played at Trent Bridge, barring the obvious one change of Rabada for Oliver. Keshav Maharaj bowled just 7 overs during the day but his role will be pivotal come the second innings of England. Till then, du Plessis will be more than happy to rotate his four fast bowlers around along with a few overs of Maharaj in the middle.

Brief Scores

England – 171 for 4 (Alistair Cook 88*, Joe Root 29, Vernon Philander 2/17, Kagiso Rabada 1/32).

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