by Julian GUYER Sound batting from veteran Alastair Cook and debutant Tom Westley saw England to 62 for one on the first morning of the third Test against South Africa at The Oval on Thursday.
The Essex duo had put on exactly 50 for the second wicket after South Africa-born opener Keaton Jennings was out for a duck.
It was just the sort of ‘correct’ top-order Test-match display England’s critics, including several former captains, had called for after the hosts were twice bowled out cheaply in a huge 340-run defeat at Trent Bridge that saw South Africa level the four-match series at 1-1 last week.
Left-hander Cook had batted for 82 minutes, facing 77 balls, including five fours, with Westley so far having struck five fours in 47 balls faced during 87
England had a setback soon after captain Joe Root won the toss and elected to bat despite the overcast conditions and green-tinged pitch that promised to assist a Proteas’ pace attack bolstered by the return of Kagiso Rabada.
The under-pressure Jennings was repeatedly beaten outside off stump by Vernon Philander and it was no surprise when he eventually edged the seamer low to Dean Elgar at third slip for a nine-ball
Westley, one of three debutants in England’s XI for what is the 100th Test at The Oval, walked out to bat with England 12 for one.
But he immediately looked far more certain of where his off stump was then Jennings.
Westley confidently left his first two deliveries from Philander, whose opening spell of one wicket for two runs in four overs, including three maidens, was
The 28-year-old right-hander, given his chance after a finger
Westley, who earlier this season scored a hundred against South Africa for the second-string England Lions, then cover-drove and on-drove Keshav Maharaj for two
Cook had made 28 when South Africa thought he might be lbw to paceman Chris Morris but a review of umpire Joel Wilson’s not out decision showed the former captain, England’s all-time leading Test run-scorer, had got an edge. DM