England wins toss and bats in final test vs. South Africa

When your intensity is very high in preparation it leads you in to a Test very well- Broad

England, after electing to bat, ended Day One at 260 for 6 at stumps.

Yet South Africa were able to leave the field with a smile. The late wicket of Stokes leaves the contest firmly in the balance. Several times England were on the verge of domination, whereupon another wicket fell.

Root and Ben Stokes (58) struck three boundaries combined in the 59th over to gather some momentum with the England captain crossing 5,000 runs in Test cricket, few overs later. The obstacles have several threads: better bowlers, greater scrutiny, which leads to a far more pressurised environment than is experienced in domestic cricket.

The Champions Trophy turned out to be an unmitigated disaster as the Proteas again choked on their own press clippings and made another early exit in an global tournament run by the worldwide Cricket Council. Malan had looked confident defending against the seamer when he went round the wicket but a change in approach allowed Morkel to catch the edge of the left-hander as he was gobbled up by du Plessis for 18.

They became the first team in Test history to see four of their batsmen - du Plessis, Vernon Philander, Kagiso Rabada and Morne Morkel - dismissed for "golden ducks".

Keaton Jennings, whose 48 in the second innings at The Oval had been a streaky but valuable reminder of his battling qualities, once again failed to dispel the gathering doubts about his Test aptitude with a battling but unfulfilled innings of 17 from 37 balls. Stokes may well have the capacity to join that elite.

He was in fluent touch Saturday against an attack without injured pacemen Vernon Philander and Chris Morris.

It had been a testing decision for Root to bat first after winning the toss. A forward short leg could have strolled to his right to take the catch but there was no one there. Undeterred, he punched Rabada down the ground to bring up his fifty from 89 balls, to allow England to reclaim the upper hand.

The skipper is eager to maintain the Proteas excellent away form.

Pace bowler Olivier and middle-order batsman Theunis de Bruyn were only playing as a result of Philander and MorrisĀ“s injuries.

South Africa trail by 269 runs with seven wickets remaining in their first innings.

Proteas wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock nicked off to Stuart Broad for 24. After all that graft in taxing conditions this must have been an exasperating dismissal. Malan and Root did resist but not for long as the former was back after a watchful start.

A passing shower yesterday morning left the outfield waterlogged although Root insists it is not a concern for his side as he looks to wrap up victory in his first series leading England. It gets frustrating when you've got a senior player and an outstanding performer like him and fitness is becoming an issue.

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