Joe Root made the most of his good fortune and substantial skill as he marked his first day as Test captain with a century England badly needed against South Africa at Lord’s.
Root (184no) survived two early scares on his way to a 150-ball hundred which contained 15 fours and aided his team’s recovery after Vernon Philander had taken three early wickets.
The new skipper shared century stands for the fifth and sixth wickets with Ben Stokes (56) and Moeen Ali (61no) respectively to see his side to 357 for five at stumps on day one of the first Investec Test.
Here, we look at four things we learned from the opening day of the first Test.
When Joe Root paddle-swept slow left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj for his 12th Test Century, he became the sixth England captain overall and the fourth in succession to score a ton on captaincy debut.
His predecessors: Andrew Strauss, Alastair Cook and Kevin Pietersen all reached triple figures on their captaincy bows and Root’s 112 placed him in illustrious company.
The 26-year-old finished the day unbeaten on 184 off just 227 deliveries to demoralise a South Africa attack that had started strong.
Root’s knock came with a slice of good fortune (he was dropped twice) but, for the most part, he looked in fine fettle.
He was busy as usual at the crease, nudging the bowlers around and not allowing them to settle in typical Root fashion. He will be looking to complete a double century on Friday and take his side to an imposing total in the first innings.
The South Africans have always been a great fielding side and England would have expected more of the same coming into this match.
However, it was the Proteas’ fielding which gave away their early initiative and allowed England to creep back into the game. Root might have scored a masterful hundred on Test debut but the picture could have been very much different if the South Africans had not thrown away two golden opportunities to send him back to the pavilion before lunch.
A top edge off a Kagiso Rabada bouncer flew over the head of substitute fielder Aiden Markram when Root was just on five – the young South African should have been much closer to the boundary ropes.
Root got another reprieve a few overs later on 16 when he flashed hard at a Rabada delivery outside off stump. Unfortunately, for the tourists, it evaded the hands of the usually reliable J.P Duminy.
If you ever want someone to lead an inquest into the technique of the openers, there is no better man than Vernon Philander.
The South African’s gentle approach to the crease on his run up is a stark contrast to the wild seam movements he generates with the red ball.
After some initial no-ball troubles, Philander settled into his role of oppressor in chief testing the England left-handed opening pair of Alastair Cook and Keaton Jennings to the hilt.
He got Cook to play away from his body for a straightforward edge to Quinton de Kock for just three early on and his next victim, Jennings, was adjudged LBW for only eight. Replays showed that the ball had pitched outside leg though so Jennings will be left ruing his decision to not review.
There were no doubts over his third dismissal though as he caught Jonny Bairstow plumb in front of stumps for 10. Philander troubled batsmen all day long with his probing seamers and he will be a handful in the English conditions through the course of the four Tests.
While there were murmurs of Chris Morris being selected in a five-man bowling attack for South Africa, they decided to go with four specialist bowlers in Kagiso Rabada, Vernon Philander, Keshav Maharaj and Morne Morkel.
Philander provided them with an excellent start but the rest of the attack did not create enough pressure on the batsmen as the day wore on.
Rabada of course could have had Root and although it wasn’t his best day, the 22-year-old will learn from the experience.
Once Root was in his zone, the bowlers had few answers to stop him as he built two crucial partnerships with Ben Stoke and Moeen Ali who both went on to complete their half-centuries.
South Africa ran out of options by the end of the day having to turn to the part time of Temba Bavuma and the inexperienced Theunis de Bruyn. Stand-in skipper Elgar will feel he could have done with an extra seamer in there but for now he will hope that his four bowlers can get South Africa back in the game.
Know more about Sport360 Application