Sluggish England asserts control of 1st test vs South Africa
LONDON (AP) England made slow progress in building a commanding 216-run lead in the first test against South Africa on Saturday, with Alastair Cook's circumspect 59 not out pushing the team to 119-1 at stumps on Day 3.
Cook, England's record run-scorer, went 38 minutes without scoring at one point in his gritty innings in the Lord's sunshine and had a strike rate of 35.97.
England was going at 2.33 runs per over but was in total control of the opening match of the four-test series, with Gary Ballance, on 22, alongside Cook at the close.
''To be honest, you wouldn't want anyone else for that position when you need to graft through an evening session to put us in a good position,'' England paceman Jimmy Anderson said of Cook, who is playing his first test since giving up the captaincy to Joe Root.
''It's probably a bit of a strange week for him because there's a new captain here and I'm sure he's going to be missing the captaincy to an extent. But at the same time it's a great opportunity for him to show people he is still happy to score runs, and we're just happy he is out there churning them out for us.''
South Africa, which was dismissed for 361 just after lunch to trail by 97 runs after the first innings, toiled away but missed the workload of paceman Vernon Philander, who sustained excessive swelling to his bowling hand while batting.
Philander didn't bowl but should return to the attack on Sunday, although the Proteas already will be resigned to simply saving the test.
Left-handed opener Keaton Jennings was the only England player to depart after wafting outside off stump and nicking Morne Morkel's delivery to wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock for 33.
De Kock and Philander scored contrasting half-centuries after South Africa started Day 3 on 214-5, still 244 runs behind England's first-innings total of 458 all out.
The highlight of an otherwise slow day's play was the cameo by De Kock, who struck a 36-ball fifty - the second-fastest at Lord's - that contained 10 fours. It raised questions as to why he is batting as low as No. 7.
The wicketkeeper was out for 51, caught by a diving Ben Stokes at square cover off Anderson, the bowler who jammed Philander's right hand with a delivery that generated extra bounce. Philander threw his bat on the ground, received treatment, and looked in discomfort for the rest of his 86-ball 52.
He had an X-ray after South Africa's innings and didn't return to the field, replaced by Chris Morris. Cricket South Africa confirmed Philander didn't sustain a fracture.
Proteas overnight batsmen Kagiso Rabada (27) and Temba Bavuma (59, after resuming on 48 not out) departed in the first half hour. After lunch, Liam Dawson trapped Keshav Maharaj (9) lbw, with a not-out decision overturned on review, before Philander played onto his stumps against Moeen Ali soon after reaching his fifth test fifty.
Morkel was unbeaten on 2 and Ali finished with figures of 4-59.
''If you look at the England innings, they had one guy who went big (Root scored 190),'' Bavuma said. ''We had a number of guys who got in on that wicket and couldn't make anything of it. That's been the difference so far.''
Steve Douglas is at www.twitter.com/sdouglas80