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26-Dec-2019 15:56:00 GMT
SA v Eng - 1st Test, Centurion, day 1

England limit South Africa 277 despite De Kock 95

Centurion: Sam Curran starred with the ball as England made a promising start against South Africa on the opening day of the first Test in Centurion on Thursday.

All-rounder Curran impressed with 4-57 as South Africa, asked to bat first, reached 277-9 at the close.

The hosts slipped to 111-5 after some indifferent batting but mounted a recovery through an entertaining 95 from Quinton de Kock.

De Kock and debutant Dwaine Pretorius' 87-run stand frustrated England before Curran and Stuart Broad (3-52) struck in the evening session.

While England were not at their best with the ball, they took advantage of some poor shots from the South Africa top order.

The tourists were without Ben Stokes for much of the day due to dehydration and the all-rounder did not bowl after two lengthy spells off the field.

Jonny Bairstow, not initially a part of the squad for the four-Test series, was recalled in place of Ollie Pope, who is one of three players struggling with illness in South Africa.

Curran has struggled outside of England - he averages 41.75 overseas compared to 29.00 at home - but he was the pick of England's bowlers with his late movement.

He pushed the ball across the South African batsmen, taking advantage of their defensive frailties, and beat the edge more often than any other bowler.

Each time he was introduced into the attack he took a wicket, the highlight being an off-stump delivery that drew a defensive push from De Kock on 95 and sent an edge through to Jos Buttler.

Bowling first was a bold call from England captain Joe Root. James Anderson is playing his first Test in four months, both Jofra Archer and Stuart Broad were ill in the build-up to the Test and Stokes has struggled to bowl with a long-standing knee problem.

Brief scores:
South Africa 277 for 9 (de Kock 95, Curran 4-57, Broad 3-52) v England

Archer bowled with pace at times but was inconsistent, while Anderson was rusty after a lengthy spell out with a calf injury and Broad ended the day looking heavy-legged after bowling accurately in sapping temperatures.

With no frontline spinner - Jack Leach was unavailable for selection due to illness - both Root and Joe Denly bowled a few overs, but England will hope their strike bowlers have enough energy to finish the innings quickly on Friday.

South Africa captain Faf du Plessis said he would have batted had the toss gone his way but the hosts made an inauspicious start.

Opener Dean Elgar fell to the first ball of the day, nicking a non-descript leg-side delivery from the returning Anderson to Buttler, before Aiden Markram flicked Curran to short mid-wicket.

Despite England's bowlers not being at their best the hosts slipped to 111-5, with both Du Plessis and Rassie van der Dussen caught behind playing away from their body, before De Kock and debutant Pretorius mounted a partnership.

De Kock, known as an aggressive batsmen, took 12 runs off his second over from Curran, but his big-hitting almost cost him when he tried to hit Root down the ground and only just avoided being caught at mid-on.

His half-century came from just 45 balls with nine fours - his hard hands allowing him to hit the pace bowlers over the top of the slips - while he was strong square of the wicket.

He was well-supported by all-rounder Pretorius, who counter-attacked more successfully against Root with a flat six, but Curran found the edge of Pretorius' bat to end the 87-run stand.

Although there was some awkward bounce this is a good batting pitch - and South Africa may be left to rue their mixed start with the bat.

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