28 Jul 2017

Slow start for England at The Oval

9:44 am on 28 July 2017

Alastair Cook ensured a quality start to The Oval's 100th test with an innings of patience and defiance that guided England to 171 for four against South Africa on a rain-disrupted opening day of the third test.

Alastair Cook bats during the 1st Test Match between England and South Africa at Lord's Cricket Ground.

Alastair Cook Photo: Photosport

The Oval has now joined Lord's and Australia's Melbourne and Sydney Cricket Grounds in hosting a century of tests.

Former captain Cook stood firm as the historic occasion was frustratingly interrupted by four stoppages, finishing unbeaten on 82 as wickets tumbled around him.

The 32-year-old resisted a South African pace attack inspired particularly by Vernon Philander, who also spent 50 minutes off the field with a stomach upset.

With the four-test series locked at 1-1, the visitors made light of losing the toss with Cook, who survived 178 balls, and Philander, who had excellent figures of 2-17 from 12 overs, proving the central figures.

Electing to bat, England captain Joe Root gave his predecessor Cook the chance to impress again in the landmark test at the south London venue which has become one of cricket's most historic grounds over 137 years.

In an awkward morning session in overcast conditions and with a green tinge to the pitch, South Africa's attack did not initially pose the menace they had shown in their 340-run victory at Trent Bridge, which levelled the series.

The South Africans imposed more pressure on the resumption with Philander dismissing the dangerous-looking Root for 29.

Cook ploughed on after another rain break, maintaining his focus to bring up his half-century off 128 balls.

England will now look to Cook to push on to a 31st Test century on day two on Friday.