Zak Crawley and Dom Sibley became the first England openers to post a century stand in over three years but South Africa fought back to leave the fourth Test in the balance after day one in Johannesburg.
The entire morning session at the Wanderers was wiped out by bad weather but when play was finally able to get going three hours and 20 minutes later, Crawley (66) and Sibley (44) set to work on a fine first-wicket partnership worth 107.
The last time England’s top two put on three figures was back in 2016, when Sir Alastair Cook and Keaton Jennings added 103 in Chennai, and while that should have been the cornerstone of a sizeable total South Africa had other ideas.
They took four wickets for 50 in a spell of challenging pace bowling, leaving Joe Root and Ollie Pope to prevent further damage by the time bad light brought an early finish at 192 for four.
Archer absent again
Jofra Archer has had a miserable first winter as a Test cricketer – struggling on flat pitches in New Zealand, being racially abused in Mount Maunganui and then missing memorable wins in Cape Town and Port Elizabeth with an elbow injury. He was hoping to finish on a high on a lively pitch at Wanderers Stadium but suffered a recurrence in the pre-match warm-ups and was once again ruled out.
Making of a Faf of it
There was a sense of inevitability about Joe Root calling correctly at the toss, with South Africa captain Faf Du Plessis now on a losing streak of seven in row – one short of former England’s skipper Nasser Hussain’s unwanted record.
Another new face
South Africa have now handed at least one debut in every match of the series. Left-arm seamer Beuran Hendricks was the fifth newcomer, following Rassie Van Der Dussen, Dwaine Pretorius, Pieter Malan and Dane Paterson. Each of the previous four made their bow aged 30 or more, making 29-year-old Hendricks a relative youngster.
Dane Paterson was holding his follow through – potentially attempting to catch the eye of batsman Joe Denly and share a few words – when he felt the unexpected force of a cricket ball thudding into his backside. Vernon Philander had launched an optimistic run-out attempt from mid-on and, while missing the stumps completely, was bang on target to give his team-mate an unexpected nudge.
Day two of five. All eyes will be on the skies in the morning, with just almost 40 overs lost to rain on the opening day. With time sure to be a factor England would love to bat only once, so need to push up past 300.