Root puts Eng­land on top

Sloppy Proteas left to live with lots of re­grets as dropped catches and no-balls spoil their bril­liant start at Lord’s

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - STU­ART HESS

they were dom­i­nat­ing the game.

While 82/4 at lunch cer­tainly rep­re­sented an ex­cel­lent morn­ing’s work by the Proteas, giv­ing Root all those op­por­tu­ni­ties, first when he had five – with sub­sti­tute fielder Ai­den Markram mis­judg­ing the flight of the ball at fine leg – and then on 16 – when JP Du­miny dropped a sim­ple chance in the gully – left a lin­ger­ing sense of con­cern at the in­ter­val.

What­ever life there had been in the sur­face in the morn­ing was baked out by the time the play­ers re­turned and with the ball softer Eng­land quickly re­asserted them­selves. Ben Stokes was quickly into his stride with four bound­aries.

South Africa adopted a de­fen­sive mind­set rea­son­ably swiftly as a re­sult, shift­ing field­ers back onto the bound­ary al­low­ing Root to nudge some com­fort­able sin­gles and ease his way into his in­nings fol­low­ing his prob­lems in the morn­ing.

The tourists couldn’t build any pres­sure in the man­ner they wished for a cou­ple of rea­sons. Ver­non Phi­lan­der after a mag­nif­i­cent first ses­sion – which he ended with fig­ures of 3/26 from seven overs – then re­turned in the af­ter­noon bowl­ing spells of three and two overs. Clearly the an­kle prob­lem that saw him miss the warm-up match at Worces­ter against the Eng­land Li­ons was still trou­bling him. Late in the fi­nal ses­sion he bowled an­other three over spell with the se­cond new ball, but lacked zip as Root, ac­com­pa­nied by Moeen Ali, thrilled the home crowd.

Mean­while left-arm spinner Ke­shav Ma­haraj was un­able to as­sert the same level of con­trol that he and his team­mates have come to ex­pect from him.

Clearly a sig­nif­i­cant el­e­ment of Eng­land’s pre-match game-plan was to tar­get Ma­haraj who con­ceded 107 runs in 22 overs.

It wasn’t that he bowled badly but Root and Stokes ini­tially and then Moeen later re­fused to al­low him to set­tle into any sort of rhythm, clev­erly us­ing their feet to him. When he did rip one passed the out­side edge of Root’s bat and had him stumped, it was Ma­haraj, who erred in bowl­ing a no-ball.

It was the se­cond time the Proteas had missed a wicket be­cause of a no-ball – ear­lier Morne Morkel had bowled Stokes off his pad when on 44.

At train­ing this week all the bowlers were be­ing re­minded by the coaches about where their front feet were land­ing but clearly all those cues were for­got­ten in the heat of bat­tle.

As the day wound down and Root and Moeen dom­i­nated a tired at­tack – which through the missed chances had taken an emo­tional bat­ter­ing too – the non-se­lec­tion of Chris Mor­ris came even more sharply into fo­cus. El­gar could cer­tainly have used that ex­tra op­tion with the ball.

It’s a long way back for the Proteas from here. Root pro­duced some sub­lime stroke-play in be­tween all the chances he was of­fered, while Moeen, after tak­ing 17 balls to get off the mark, bat­ted flu­ently to end the day un­beaten on 61.

The visi­tors will re­flect and re­gret about their first day misses but they must re­turn to­day with spir­its re­newed if they are to make a more pos­i­tive im­pres­sion on their first Test.

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