Cook stands firm, England 171-4 in 3rd test vs South Africa
LONDON (AP) Rain was the main winner on the first day of the third test between England and South Africa as England limped to 171-4 in the face of a persistent and disciplined South African seam attack.
England opener Alastair Cook showed intense concentration to score an unbeaten 82. He was the only England player able to knuckle down in difficult conditions at the Oval. Only 59 overs were bowled.
Cook, who has scored more than 11,000 test runs, faced 178 balls as England seeks to recover from a heavy defeat in the third of four test matches. The series is tied 1-1 at the moment.
South Africa's seam attack, led by Vernon Philander, enjoyed the cloudy and humid conditions that led to extravagant swing. Despite a stomach ailment, Philander took 2-17 from 12 overs.
England reached 62-1 at lunch, recovering from the loss of Keaton Jennings in just the fourth over, caught at slip with the score on 12.
The inexperience of Jennings and debutants Tom Westley and Dawid Malan showed as they could only muster 26 runs between them. Westley scored 25 of those.
After lunch, Westley was caught in the slips with the score on 64. Joe Root played in typical attacking fashion, scoring 29 before becoming Philander's second victim. Malan scored just one on his test debut to leave England perched perilously on 120-4 after winning the toss and opting to bat.
Morne Morkel was loose and did not claim any wickets, while fellow quicks Kagiso Rabada and Chris Morris had one wicket each.
The runs dried up for England in an afternoon session punctuated by rain showers and the tea total was scored in 52 overs. After tea only seven overs were possible.
Cook offered few chances despite the strong bowling and hit 10 fours in his patient innings.
Opener Jennings was caught in the slips by Dean Elgar off Philander in the fourth over with the score on 12, and he departed without scoring.
Westley, making his debut at the age of 28, showed a few flamboyant and wristy touches with his batting as he reached 24 by lunch, including five boundaries, but he was unable to carry on for long after the break.
Malan was removed by a stunning late inswinging yorker from Rabada, returning to the team after a one-match suspension.
England gave caps to seam bowler Toby Roland-Jones, and batsmen Westley and Malan, and selected seven batsmen to reinforce the upper order on a green Oval wicket.