Alastair Cook holds firm on tough first day at the Kia Oval

July 28, 2017

Alastair Cook held steady with a gutsy innings on a difficult opening day for England in the third Test against South Africa at the Kia Oval.

The former captain ended a rain-shortened day 82 not out as England fought hard to reach 171-4 in conditions where the ball swung and seamed and the tourists bowled impressively.

England won the toss and chose to bat, but Cook soon lost his opening partner as Keaton Jennings suffered his third duck in nine Test innings, edging Vernon Philander to slip. Although off the field at times with a stomach upset, Philander returned to bowl several fine spells during the day.

Before that, Tom Westley looked the part in his Test debut, but was dismissed for 25 when he edged a fine swinging delivery by Chris Morris. The second of England's three debutants, Dawid Malan, made just a single, but he was blameless in his dismissal as Kagiso Rabada bowled him with a vicious swinging yorker that Waqar Younis in his prime could not have bettered.

With Morne Morkel also producing an impressive spell - he gave Root a torrid time before the England skipper was dismissed by Philander - England struggled to 120-4, but Ben Stokes stayed with Cook until the end as the players were increasingly on and off for rain as the day wore on.

Cook's innings saw one scare when South Africa reviewed an lbw shout but an inside edge was detected, but if he can make his 31st Test century today (July 28th), he could set up England with a real chance on a green pitch which is already showing wear around the footmarks that Moeen Ali could exploit. 

Fans booking corporate hospitality for the upcoming Edgbaston day-night Test will hope Cook is getting back to his best, as his runs could be vital in Australia this winter. His prolific Ashes series in 2010-11 was a key factor in England retaining the urn.

The Ashes - including the day-night Test in Adelaide - had been under threat due to a protracted pay dispute between Cricket Australia and the player's union, but talks have intensified, with Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland proposing arbitration if a solution is not found in the next couple of weeks.

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