South Africa vs England:-James Anderson struck early in his 100th home Test, before Stuart Broad and Ben Stokes struck twice each, as England seized the early initiative in the second Test at Emirates Old Trafford with five wickets before lunch in handy seam-bowling conditions.
In a deviation from the tactics that had brought South Africa success in their innings victory at Lord’s last week, Dean Elgar chose to bat first after winning the toss, despite both cloudy overhead conditions and England’s stated preference for chasing games, as shown by their four wins in a row at the start of the summer.
Elgar’s logic was dictated to a large degree by South Africa’s team selection, with Simon Harmer restored to the XI as a second spin option alongside Keshav Maharaj, and given his prowess for Essex in the County Championship over the past five years, he could well come into his own in the fourth innings, on a ground where he has claimed 15 wickets at 17.60 in his three matches against Lancashire.
But for the time being, there is a tricky first innings for South Africa to negotiate, on a pitch offering appreciable seam movement as well as extra bounce for England’s quicks – not least the restored Ollie Robinson, who utilised his high release point to challenge both edges of the bat, and hinted at a renewed commitment to his fitness levels in the quickest spell of his Test career to date.
Sarel Erwee, a key contributor to South Africa’s Lord’s win, was never allowed to settle as Anderson and Robinson hounded him in a probing new-ball pairing – the first time, in fact, since the Cape Town Test of 2009-10 that Anderson had not been partnered by Stuart Broad in a match in which they were both playing.
Robinson beat Erwee outside off stump three times in his first two overs, and Anderson struck him in the groin in between whiles, before an uncomfortable stay was ended via an inside-edge through to Ben Foakes behind the stumps to carve an opening in the fifth over of the day.
Robinson could and should have had early reward too, when Elgar – on 10 at the time – pushed forward and inside-edged to short leg, only for the breakthrough to be overturned by a call of no-ball from the third umpire.
It was a short-lived reprieve, however. Elgar had taken 16 balls to get off the mark, and had been limited to a solitary punched boundary through long-off, when Broad – entering the attack as the hour mark approached – hit a good length outside off with a hint of away movement. Jonny Bairstow at third slip stooped low to gather, and South Africa’s captain was gone for 12.
Keegan Petersen connected with a trio of off-side boundaries – two of them firm cuts and one fat edge past the slips – in his innings of 21, but Broad’s hungry introduction cut short his progress. In his third over, more steep bounce on a good length kissed the edge of the bat as Petersen got squared up with flat feet, and Root at first slip swallowed the edge to leave South Africa wobbing at 41 for 3.
Aiden Markram and Rassie van der Dussen compiled the beginnings of a fourth-wicket stand to restore South Africa’s hopes of reaching lunch without further damage. But Stokes, in a typically golden-armed intervention, had other ideas.
Stokes’ first breakthrough was reminiscent of Ian Botham’s maiden Test wicket in 1977 – a rank long-hop that deserved to get the treatment, but instead induced the error from the batter. Markram swung lustily across the line, but managed only a steepling top-edge to Foakes, running back towards fine leg.
One over later, van der Dussen was gone as well, to an each-way bet of an lbw decision from umpire Illingworth. The ball thumped the front pad very close to the inside edge, and carried through to the keeper. Van der Dussen reviewed, but the decision stood, with DRS returning an umpire’s call verdict on both impact and the top of the leg bail.
England’s position could have got even better in the final over before the break, but Foakes couldn’t cling onto an under-edged cut from Kyle Verreynne.