Millennium Post

Steyn bowls early blow for South Africa

Dale Steyn had not bowled competitively since November 5, but it took him just 11 deliveries to make a crucial mark on the Boxing Day Test when he removed Alastair Cook without scoring after England had been put into bat on a muggy, damp Durban morning which was truncated to 6.1 overs by rain and lightning.

Play was delayed for half an hour by morning drizzle and there had also been considerable overnight rain, then the weather closed in again after a demanding period of new-ball bowling. Cook, too, would likely have bowled but the choice went to Hashim Amla and the South Africa captain was no doubt delighted to have Steyn back to lead his attack after the injury-hit tour of India.

Steyn probed outside Cook’s off stump with the England captain initially showing good judgement before being drawn into pushing at one angled across him that nipped away with the edge carrying 
comfortably to Dean Elgar at second slip. Steyn’s veins almost popped in the celebration; there are numerous key head-to-heads in this series and Steyn had claimed the first honours in his with Cook.
The early wicket meant that England’s new-look top three had lost their figurehead, leaving debutant Alex Hales and the recalled Nick Compton to try and repel South Africa in challenging conditions. 

Hales had managed to settle his nerves when he was off the mark first delivery he faced in Test cricket as he clipped Kyle Abbott through square leg and was largely secure in the half an hour of play before lightning and then rain took the players off.

Compton, returning to the Test side for the first time since mid-2013 and in the city of his birth, had a nervy start when he edged Steyn short of first slip, the ball dying in front of Stiaan van Zyl - it was a chance that AB de Villiers may consider he could have dived for. Compton then opened his account with a scampered single to the leg side which left him diving for the crease.

Three balls later and a rumble of thunder near the ground brought a quick discussion between Aleem Dar and Rod Tucker who quickly took the players off and the rain was not long in returning. Eventually lunch was set for 12pm with the hope that play would resume 40 minutes after that.

England’s final XI had been confirmed on Christmas Day when Chris Woakes was inked in as James Anderson’s replacement after Anderson’s calf strain ruled him out of the opening Test. Steven Finn also returned to the line-up after missing the series against Pakistan in the UAE, proving his fitness ahead of the expected schedule after arriving from the Lions series in Dubai and taking six wickets against South Africa A.

South Africa, with an eye on conditions later in the match, included offspinner Dane Piedt in the final 
XI ahead of young quick Kagiso Rabada. It meant that the onus on the first day would be on three frontline quicks. Their early forays were promising.
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