If the toss is crucial in a game, and you lose said flip of the coin, then perhaps if at the end of the first day you can say you are still in the match then that represents a very good day indeed.
Weather conditions were unfriendly throughout, and the surface looked green, seaming just enough early on to be a real danger to the batsman and als0 (more surprisingly – not least for Joe Root) proving conducive to spin from the start. Yet the forecast for improved weather for the rest of the game made this first day potentially decisive for the Test, and England will be well pleased that they are not just in the game, but in a reasonable position.
The late loss of Taylor was unquestionably a blow, for without that wicket it could have been said to not just be a good battling performance, but one where England had a chance of getting on top. Even so, from 49-3 and in terrible trouble, to reach 179-4 is a fine recovery.
Losing early wickets probably shouldn’t be too harshly viewed, for it certainly appeared difficult batting conditions, though the nature of those wickets will grate somewhat – Cook won’t need to be told that was a poor shot – and it didn’t appear to ease greatly for the rest of the play.
For both Taylor and Compton, much praise is warranted. Although Compton scored slowly, which is what he was criticised for first time around, in these circumstances it was exactly what England needed, and in any event at no time did it feel in any way negative – he put away the bad ball well, and turned over the strike regularly. One might say that the difference is in a player who is backed to perform rather than failure being pounced upon, but one innings is one innings. What is interesting is that he is batting at number three, and given the most successful recent exponent of that position for England was Trott, it may yet be a position that suits him.
Taylor has developed from the batsman who first appeared three years ago, though even then that flawed player showed there was no shortage of nerve and bottle in him.
South Africa only have three front line seamers and England must aim to keep them in the field, and put the pressure on Steyn through additional overs he has to bowl. Certainly he appeared what he is – a class above anyone else.
England do have a deep batting line up, so will hope to capitalise on the hard work done, but they’re in that tough situation where 300 would be a pretty impressive total to reach given conditions, but likely won’t be enough as the track flattens out in the sun. So while they have done extremely well, they will need to do extremely well again tomorrow as well – perhaps an unfair return for the effort put in.
All in all, decent effort from England – or more specifically decent effort from Compton and Taylor. On to tomorrow, where we’ll have a better idea of the balance of the game.