|First LV Insurance Test, Lord’s (day one of five)|
|England 116-6: Pope 61*, Nortje 3-43, Rabada 2-36|
|South Africa: yet to bat|
England were put under huge pressure by some tremendous South Africa bowling before rain wiped out most of the opening day of the first Test at Lord’s.
Put in to bat in testing conditions, the home side were reduced to 116-6 by the relentless Proteas pace attack.
Anrich Nortje, bowling in excess of 90mph, claimed 3-43, while Kagiso Rabada showed great skill for his 2-36.
Only Ollie Pope, unbeaten on 61, was able to come through the stern examination, and he needed the fortune of being dropped on 45.
Five England batters were out for single-figure scores, including opener Zak Crawley, who managed only nine to extend his run of Test innings without a half-century to 13.
Torrential rain arrived just after 14:00 BST and soon flooded the outfield, ending the day with 58 of the scheduled 90 overs unbowled.
Dry weather is forecast for the remainder of the match, which is the opening contest in a three-Test series.
First blood to South Africa
Even before captains Ben Stokes and Dean Elgar exchanged words in the build-up over the merits of England’s fresh approach, this was always likely to be a test of the positive method that brought the hosts four successive wins at the beginning of the summer.
As early as the toss, England were given a new challenge – all of those four wins came batting second – as Elgar pounced on the opportunity to unleash his four ferocious seamers.
And, despite the predicament they find themselves in, the score should not yet be seen as an argument against England’s aggression.
Only two batters – Alex Lees and Jonny Bairstow – were culpable of loose strokes, with the rest undone by excellent bowling and, in the case of Joe Root, some bad luck in the shape of a very marginal lbw decision.
Rabada first induced a loose waft from Lees before Crawley edged a superb delivery that left him down the Lord’s slope. When Root was given leg before to left-armer Marco Jansen, the review showed it to be merely shaving the top of leg stump, with the former captain visibly frustrated.
Bairstow, in the form of his life this summer, reverted to old habits trying to drive the fifth ball he faced, only to be bowled through the gate by a 93mph delivery from Nortje.
Stokes and Pope added 45 for the fifth wicket before Stokes was squared up by Nortje and caught at third slip on the stroke of lunch, while Ben Foakes was bowled by the same man by one that may have kept low.
Amid the carnage, Pope was fluent for his highest score in four Tests on this ground. He cut, clipped and ran hard.
Still, if Keegan Petersen had held a diving chance at third slip from the bowling of Nortje, England would have been in even more trouble.
England’s Crawley conundrum
England’s upturn has come largely because of the support given to the players by captain Stokes and coach Brendon McCullum, the management team promoting freedom and removing the fear of failure.
While most have thrived, Crawley is still to produce his best – his Test average is now less than 27.
Stokes has been adamant in his backing of the Kent man and this England squad has already been confirmed for the second Test at Old Trafford, meaning Crawley will play again even if he fails in the second innings.
While the captain’s attitude is laudable, there may come a point when England have a decision to make.
Crawley, who has two Test hundreds, is clearly talented, but could benefit if given time away from international cricket. Being dropped does not have to be terminal and plenty of players have returned to long and successful Test careers after a spell out of the side.
England also have to balance loyalty to those in the team with fairness to others on the outside, ensuring that good performances are rewarded and the moment to capitalise on a player’s good form is not missed.
‘We’re not always going to get it 100% right’
England assistant coach Paul Collingwood: “Everyone is clear about how we go about our batting, we’re not always going to get it 100% right. At times we soaked up pressure and at times we put the pressure back on the bowlers.
“It would have been nice to come off only three or four down, but losing a wicket the ball before lunch hurt us. We have been in this position before and we have some excellent bowlers who can exploit favourable conditions.”
South Africa bowler Kagiso Rabada: “There was a bit in the wicket and we got rewards for putting the ball in the right areas. Anrich Nortje’s ball to get Bairstow was quick, it was going to take something special to get an in-form player out.”