Steyn strikes to put brakes on England fightback
Durban, South Africa : Nick Compton and James Taylor, both seeking to re-establish themselves at Test level, hit half-centuries and dug England out of trouble on a rain-hit first day of the first Test against South Africa at Kingsmead on Saturday.
England were 179 for four at the close of play after being sent in to bat.
Fast bowler Dale Steyn spoiled a good recovery by the tourists when he struck shortly before the close, having Taylor caught behind for 70, ending a partnership of 125 off 274 balls.
Taylor, hitting a second half-century in successive matches after returning to the side after a three-year absence, said it had been a good day for England in overcast conditions which he said suited the South African bowlers.
“I thought it was a pretty solid day for England,” said Taylor, who praised the application of Compton after the pair came together with their side struggling on 49 for three.
Taylor fell in fading light shortly before the close, capping a fine comeback from injury by Steyn, who took three for 29.
Steyn dismissed English opening batsmen Alastair Cook and Alex Hales cheaply, while off-spinner Dane Piedt took the wicket of Joe Root for 24 with his first ball of the match.
Compton and Taylor batted solidly on a slow pitch which did not offer the bowlers as much assistance as South African captain Hashim Amla might have hoped when he won the toss and sent England in to bat in overcast conditions.
“The conditions were tough for both sides,” said Steyn.
“It was difficult for the batsmen to score because the pitch was slow, but the ball was a bit damp because of the wet outfield and it was difficult to get the ball to swing.”
Compton, returning to the city of his birth and early upbringing, was resolute and almost strokeless at times in his first Test match in more than two years.
He made 63 not out off 179 balls, with four boundaries.
– ‘Didn’t swing’ -“He did exactly what was needed,” said Taylor. “It’s been a few years out for both Nick and myself and we really enjoyed batting out there.”
The diminutive Taylor was more enterprising than Compton, using his feet well, particularly against the spin bowlers, and made his runs off 137 balls with nine fours and a six off left-arm spinner Dean Elgar.
“I tried to be as aggressive as I could in my areas and not go too far out of my areas,” he said.
Steyn, who had not played any cricket since suffering a groin injury on the first day of a series in India on November 5, found his rhythm almost immediately and had skipper Cook caught at second slip by Elgar for a duck off the fifth ball of his second over.
He did not concede a run in the 3.1 overs he bowled in the 27 minutes of play that was possible before lunch.
England new cap Alex Hales got off the mark with a clip to leg for two off the first ball he faced from Kyle Abbott and looked comfortable at the crease, although the only ball he faced against Steyn during the morning was the last delivery before the rain.
When play resumed he faced only four more balls without adding to his score of ten before edging a Steyn outswinger to wicketkeeper AB de Villiers.
“It’s been frustrating sitting on the sidelines for the last six weeks,” said Steyn.
“I’ve been training hard and doing a lot of bowling and I had quite a tough fitness test. Hash (Amla) is always asking the leader of the attack to set the tone and it was nice to get on the field and contribute.”
Steyn added that the decision to bowl first was influenced by a forecast of hot weather for the remaining four days.
“Today was probably the only day with cloud cover, although it didn’t swing as much as we hoped,” he said. AFP