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Crawley and Bairstow keep England in control after bowlers deliver

T

he Second Test between England and South Africa, as the hosts’ tend to these days, is not for messing around.

At the end of its thrilling first day, England are in a position of strength that they must turn into a position of dominance on Friday as they look to level the series.

England would have been delighted to bowl South Africa out for 151, then reached stumps just three down and 40 behind. The under pressure Zak Crawley, who ground his way to 17 off 77 balls, and Jonny Bairstow, 38 from 45, shared a very handy unbeaten 68, with the benefit of extras, to pour water on a situation that looked concerning when Joe Root was dismissed for another low score.

South Africa sprung some surprises first thing. Simon Harmer returned, which was an understandable decision, given Old Trafford’s reputation for spin and the dry complexion of the surface. But he came in for Marco Jansen, which lengthened the Proteas’ tail, and denied Harmer the left-armer’s footmarks. Lungi Ngidi might have been a better omission, although he did find a beautiful delivery in his very first over in the evening session to dismiss Alex Lees.

Dean Elgar’s decision to bat first, made sense given South Africa have two spinners in their ranks. But the conditions screamed bowl, with low cloud, and England love to bowl first. Giving them their wish left South Africa with an awkward first session to get through before the sun was set to shine later in the day.

They failed, reaching lunch five wickets down, and Harmer at the crease. England gleefully accepted the opportunity, with Jimmy Anderson picking up the first wicket, then Stuart Broad and Ben Stokes two apiece.

The best of the bowlers, though, was perhaps Ollie Robinson, who was recalled to the side and given the new ball ahead of Broad. He was expensive, but beat the outside edge regularly, and would have had Elgar caught at short leg – Ollie Pope did very well – only for the umpire to stick his arm out for a no-ball.

By then, Anderson – becoming the first man to play 100 Tests at home – had had Sarel Erwee, who looked at sea, caught behind off the inside edge, and Robinson’s misstep was not punished by Elgar. That was because Broad, replacing Anderson at the end named in his honour, had him well caught at third slip, then followed it up with the wicket of Keegan Petersen, who was loose outside off stump and taken at first slip. This was a strong riposte from Broad.

Stuart Broad and Jimmy Anderson took six wickets between them

/ PA

Stokes emerged for a spell shortly before lunch, and was gifted a pair of wickets. The first gift came from Aiden Markram, who made a horrible mess of pulling a short ball and skied behind. The second was a gift from umpire Chris Gaffaney, who gave Rassie van der Dussen out lbw to a beauty. His review revealed that it was umpire’s call on both impact and the stumps, so van der Dussen had a right to consider himself unfortunate.

Promptly after lunch, Anderson picked up two wickets in two balls, both South Africa’s spinners, both lbw, both plumb. With Harmer and Keshav Maharaj gone, the Proteas were 92 for seven.

From there, to make 151 felt an achievement, especially as they stretched their innings into the final session of the day. Kyle Verreyne dug in for 22 before being caught behind off Broad, then Kagiso Rabada played a gem of an innings from No9. He was grateful for England’s telegraphed bouncer plan, which was misguided. With Anrich Nortje, he put on 35, the highest stand of the innings.

The ball after tea, Nortje was pinned lbw by Robinson, who finally had reward for some toil. A couple of overs later, Jack Leach finished the job with Rabada caught at slip.

England lost Lees early, caught behind, but Crawley dug in. At the other end, Ollie Pope played his shots before Nortje ripped one through his defences. Root did not last long, with Erwee hanging on to the sort of juggling catch he dropped at Lord’s.

That paired Crawley and Bairstow. There was a tight lbw call from Crawley to Maharaj, but he survived, and put his shots away. Bairstow did not, and kept the scoreboard moving. Each has provided themselves an opportunity on day two.

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