Durban - Dale Steyn took two wickets up front with the new ball and a third with his final spell of the day to keep the Proteas on terms with England on day one of the opening Test at Kingsmead on Saturday.
Steyn’s figures of 15.1-3-29-3 represented a good return for the world’s No 1 fast bowler having his first bowl in the middle in some six weeks. He needs one more wicket to reach 50 Test dismissals against England.
He reduced England to 12/2 after Hashim Amla had won the toss and the Proteas looked well on top when they later had their visitors on 49/3 with both the big guns, Alastair Cook and Joe Root, back in the pavilion.
But England then fought back extremely well thanks to a fourth wicket stand of 125 between James Taylor (70 off 137 balls, 9 fours and a six) and Nicholas Compton (63 not out, 179 balls, 4 fours) to finish the day on 179/4.
The two sides now face a crucial first hour on Sunday morning with the second new ball just under 15 overs away.
The behaviour of the conditions today showed just how important it is to take wickets when the ball is new and hard. The first day’s play revealed little evidence of either seam or swing and there was minimal pace and bounce in the surface either.
Compton, in fact, nicked one delivery from Steyn that failed to carry to Stiaan van Zyl at first slip.
What may be significant is that both Dane Piedt and Dean Elgar got the odd delivery to turn and it remains to be seen whether this was a result of the moisture in the surface or whether spin is going to be a big factor as the match unfolds.
The dampness both in the surface and in the outfield as a result of a rain-delayed start and two rain breaks during the play meant that reverse swing is not going to be a factor at this stage.
England certainly have plenty of batting to come and, with better weather forecast for the next few days, the next session of play could be one of the most important of the match.