Middle order steadies tourists after Moeen wins battle of the bewhiskered

Close of play report (day two) South Africa 214-5; England 458 all out

Moeen Ali’s capacity for getting crucial wickets helped give England the advantage on the second day of the first Test at Lord’s. The off spinner has often been derided for his unimpressive average but his knack for picking up big players at important moments mitigates in his favour as far as his admirers are concerned.

Moeen, averaging a wicket every 42.22 runs before the start of this series, removed the dangerous Hashim Amla and the stand-in captain Dean Elgar either side of tea to put his team in the driving seat, South Africa slipping to 104 for four. But Temba Bavuma and the inexperienced Theunis de Bruyn consolidated well as the afternoon stretched into evening, banishing fears the tourists might be bowled out cheaply.

Earlier, the beard to be revered had struck an impressive 87 to help England repel a South African comeback in NW8.

Moeen, whose recent impressive beard growth gives the impresson that it might have benefited from a top-up from fertiliser used on the Lord’s outfield, won the battle of the bewhiskered as he removed Amla, averaging more than 56 in Test cricket, for 29 and followed up with a bat-pad combo on Elgar.

The second wicket made him the second quickest England player to 100 wickets and 2,000 runs. Take that doubters! Tony Greig was the fastest.

Stuart Broad, too, enjoyed an encouraging day after his heel injury problems, striking his first Test fifty in four years – successive sixes off the impressive Morne Morkel the highlight as the tall South African tried to bounce him ever further towards square leg – and he finished unbeaten on 57 as he shared in a flamboyant last-wicket stand with James Anderson.

Anderson slapped a six of his own – his first in five years – as the pair added a quickfire 45 in 4.3 overs before the England swing bowler edged behind.

Broad went on to remove Heino Kuhn, caught at first slip on his Test debut at the age of 33, and JP Duminy, leg-before as England snapped up two wickets quickly after the tea interval.

Morkel had removed Joe Root, hero of the first day, early in the morning after he added only six to his overnight 184, a snorting leg-cutter finding his outside edge before Liam Dawson fell two balls later, trapped leg-before. Mark Wood perished in similar fashion, like Amla later more or less walking after being struck emphatically in front.

After Broad and Anderson’s antics with the bat, South Africa’s openers played out four overs in a tricky period before lunch, but Kuhn was soon gone after the break, caught by Alastair Cook. Elgar and Amla took the tourists within sight of tea without further alarm until Moeen spun one in from outside off stump to see off the latter.

Elgar went on to complete his half-century from 90 balls, but did not add to the 54 he had accrued by the interval, Ballance gratefully gathering a sharpish chance into his folds at short-leg.

It was a typically flinty effort from Elgar, a man whose willpower often allows him triumph over his batting shortcomings. If we laud those players who seem to have lots of time to hit the ball, we must reflect that in contrast Elgar, who hit eight fours in his 118-ball stay, almost always looks hurried.

The homuncular Bavuma grew in stature, figuratively if not literally, as he got well in behind most of what England’s quicks and their two spinners threw at him in the final session, Root’s pro-active captaincy – he regularly rotated his bowlers and the ends from which they bowled – standing in stark contrast to that of his predecessor Cook.

The 27-year-old batsman, averaging almost 50 in his four previous Tests against England, was particularly decisive in his footwork whether threading the most refined of cover drives through the infield or nimbly advancing to a floaty Moeen delivery to loft effortlessly down the ground.

De Bruyn, playing only his second Test, was not quite so easy on the eye but showed the determination and stickability of a man who was the third fastest South African to 1,000 first-class runs.

Shortly before the close – and a run short of of their 100 partnership – a late burst from Jimmy Anderson, England’s all-time leading wicket-taker, accounted for De Bruyn two runs short of a deserved maiden fifty.

England had assuredly gained the upper hand, and with Kagiso Rabada sent out as nightwatchman, their opponents will be relying on Bavuma, unbeaten on 48 at the close and the elegant Quinton de Kock to get them anywhere near parity on the third day.

Tea report: South Africa 96-2 England 458 all out

South Africa’s stand-in captain Dean Elgar provided stubborn resistance against England after spinner Moeen Ali made a crucial breakthrough – possibly the crucial breakthrough – in the afternoon session.

Elgar, the flinty left-hander, leading his side in the absence of Faf du Plessis, struck an important, if at times torturous, half-century as his side made a solid start to their reply at Lord’s.

Elgar, who reached his fifty from 90 balls, lost Heino Kuhn, opening the batting in his first Test at the age of 33, shortly after lunch, edging Stuart Broad to Alastair Cook at first slip before Moeen, who had to wait as Joe Root initially preferred Liam Dawson as his spin option, turned one from outside off and caught the dangerous Hashim Amla on the line of off stump.

Amla, rather like Mark Wood when he became England’s ninth wicket to fall lbw to Kagiso Rabada second ball, more or less walked even though the umpire answered the appeal with almost embarrassing haste. It proved, though, to be a good decision and Amla barely discussed the situation with captain Elgar as he passed him on the way to the pavilion.

Moeen, whose recent impressive beard growth gives the impresson that it might have benefited from a top-up from fertiliser used on the Lord’s outfield, had unequivocally won the battle of the bewhiskered.

Earlier, England had been bowled out for 458, Morne Morkel finally earning due reward for a consistent performance with the ball. He nipped out Joe Root after he had added six to his overnight 184, an excellent leg-cutter finding the finest of edges, and two balls later had Dawson leg-before for a duck.

Moeen continued in the elegant vein he had shown the evening before, although Vernon Philander will be irritated that two edges he induced from his bat dropped short of second slip, before Rabada bowled him off another fine edge, this side on the inner portion of his blade.

But Broad and James Anderson entertained the home crowd with a last-wicket stand of 45 in just 4.3 overs. Broad, who hit his first Test fifty since 2013, slapped Morkel for two sixes in succession over square leg before Anderson followed suit with one of his own off Rabada. Anderson – whose six was his first in five years and only his third in Test cricket – was the last man out, edging behind. It left South Africa a tricky four overs to survive before lunch which they did without due alarm.

Lunch report:England 458 all out South Africa 10-0

England enjoyed a last-wicket six-fest to lift their total to 458 after South Africa had launched an excellent fightback on the second morning of the first Test at Lord’s

Stuart Broad swiped successive Morne Morkel deliveries into the crowd in the Grandstand and James Anderson followed his example the next over from Kagiso Rabada as the pair added 45 in overs 4.3 overs of mayhem.

Broad, who hit his first Test fifty since Trent Bridge 2013 against Australia, had come in after the loss of yesterday’s hero Joe Root and Liam Dawson in the space of three Morkel balls in the third over of the morning.

Morkel deserved his reward for a decent display on the first day, when he still found movement off the pitch when Root was at his most dominant.

Broad ended undefeated on 57, with eight fours to add to the two giant pulls that sailed over the two men posted behind square leg on the boundary.

Anderson’s six was only his third in five-day cricket – and his first for five years.

South Africa, whose intensity faded on the first day with every Root boundary – and every missed opportunity in the form of dropped catches and wickets off no-balls – had earlier hit back well. Root feathered a perfect leg-cutter through to Quinton de Kock and two balls later Liam Dawson was leg-before to one that would have clipped the top of leg stump.

Moeen Ali, still displaying the elegant form of the evening before, advanced comfortably to 87 before Kagiso Rabada, who had replaced Vernon Philander at the Nursery End, bowled him off a fine inside edge as he aimed another drive at a fullish ball in the third over of the paceman’s spell.

It was an unfortunate end to a lovely knock but Philander will have felt sore that the wicket was not his, having forced two edges from Ali in the early overs only to see them fall short of Dean Elgar at second slip. He had hit eight fours, the best of them whipped in the air to mid-wicket despite the presence of a man in the deep not too far away.

Mark Wood was palpably lbw to Rabada as two wickets fell in three balls for the second time in the morning – the Durham pace bowler as good as walked when he was caught on the back leg – and Anderson gave Morkel a third wicket of the day when he edged behind to end a cameo of 12. Morkel finished with figures of 4-115, the other wickets shared equally between Philander and Rabada.

South Africa survived a tricky four-over period before the interval, but stand-in captain Elgar and Heino Kuhn, making his Test debut at the age of 33, proved equal to the task.

FUN FACT: Father Time, the weathervane that stands on top of the Mound Stand Scoreboard, is 6ft 6ins – that’s an inch taller than Stuart Broad – and still growing*.

*This bit may not be true

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