England made a bold selection call, opting for an all-pace attack at Headingley, and it paid off as they restricted South Africa’s scoring on day one at 262-5. ANT SIMS reports from Leeds.
England showed signs of bouncing back and living up to its world number one ranking on the first day at Headingley. Having won the toss, the hosts put South Africa in to bat under cloudy skies in Leeds.
The home side came out with a surprise selection, leaving out Graeme Swann and bringing in Steven Finn – opting for an all-pace attack. The last time England played an all-pace outfit was at the same ground in 2003; a game which they lost.
While Headingley has traditionally been far more bowler-friendly, many would have thought that dismantling hangover from The Oval might have courted England into batting first, but AB de Villiers reckons it was the obvious choice.
"I wasn't surprised that they bowled first. They have a good attack, so it made sense for them to stick us in and try and make inroads, which they did,” said De Villiers.
Smith and Petersen knuckled down and put on a solid first-wicket partnership, before an atrocious shot from Smith saw England draw blood early on as the South African skipper flicked the ball straight to Ian Bell off the bowling of Tim Bresnan – right after bringing up his 50.
South Africa was still sitting pretty on 120-1, but miscommunication between Alviro Petersen and Hashim Amla had England biting at South Africa's heels. Petersen hit through the covers and despite a misfield, Amla was run out as Petersen opted for the third run. Jacques Kallis soon followed, edging through to Alastair Cook in the slips off James Anderson.
While some brain fades from South Africa were largely to thank for the early wickets, England’s gamble to go with an all-pace attack paid its dividends after the team took the second new ball – with both Stuart Broad and Finn getting breakthroughs at the right time.
Anderson said the team was pleased with its efforts and the English paceman reckons the game is currently in the hosts’ favour.
"We're pleased with the way things went today. We created chances all day, but we also missed out on a few. The new ball burst from the two big guys swung the game our way,” said Anderson.
Under the circumstances, though, South Africa did well to survive, and dug deep to put some runs on the board. Petersen in particular was tremendous. He’s been under scrutiny since he first came into the team, but if ever the 31-year old made a statement, it was on Thursday. He finished the day unbeaten on 124 and put on a solid fourth-wicket partnership with De Villiers.
"Alviro was amazing today, and he supported me really well. The way he played was really inspiring and he gave everybody some tips about what the pitch was doing,” said De Villiers.
The rain at Leeds has stayed away for the most part, but there are bound to be more interruptions during the Test. How South Africa and England play to them will be the key.
De Villiers believes that there is still plenty on offer for the bowlers, something South Africa will be keen to get stuck into.
"I thought we played well and we assessed conditions really well. The pitch definitely got quicker as the day went on. England bowled really well towards the end; they asked all the right questions,” De Villiers said.
The Proteas will resume day two on 262-5 with Petersen and Jacques Rudolph at the crease. Rudolph has spent plenty of time in Yorkshire, the county which calls Headingley home, and he'll be familiar with the conditions. This will be another chance for him to prove why he should be in the side.
Rain is forecast for the first few hours of play in Leeds on Friday, and if the cloudy conditions loom, England have a great chance to stamp their authority on the Test and prove that they do indeed possesses the number one bowling attack. DM
Photo by Reuters