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
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.