Port Elizabeth (South Africa) (AFP) - Zak Crawley and Dom Sibley gave England a solid start on the first day of the third Test against South Africa at St George’s Park on Thursday.
England were 61 for no wicket at lunch after captain Joe Root won the toss and decided to bat on a placid pitch on a hot, sunny day. The four-match series is tied at 1-1.
Crawley was on 20 not out while Sibley had scored 30.
It was the sixth successive Test toss lost by South African captain Faf du Plessis and early indications were that his team were in for a long struggle.
As early as the seventh over, wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock was standing up to the stumps to Vernon Philander’s bowling because of the lack of pace from the surface, while there was no swing or movement off the surface.
It came as a surprise shortly before lunch when fast bowler Anrich Nortje got a ball to lift quickly enough to strike Sibley in the chest.
South Africa picked new cap Dane Paterson as a specialist fast bowler in place of all-rounder Dwaine Pretorius.
"He’s a skiddy bowler who hits the top of the stumps," said Du Plessis, who surprisingly decided that Paterson would share the new ball with Philander, with the quicker Kagiso Rabada and Nortje having to wait for their turn.
England brought back fast bowler Mark Wood in place of the injured James Anderson. Wood has not played since the World Cup final in July because of a knee injury but has been working on his fitness since the beginning of the tour.
Wood has not played in a red-ball match since a Test series in the West Indies last February.