Ollie Pope helps England recover from rocky start as South Africa strike early

Ollie Pope spearheaded England’s attempts to get out of trouble after they fell back into familiar patterns with the loss of early wickets on the opening day of the first Test against South Africa at Lord’s.

The 24-year-old brought up his half-century just before lunch having played positively and looked for any opportunities to score, going into the break unbeaten on 51 and with England on 100 for five.

Pope had to remedy a dismal situation after England slipped to 55 for four, including the loss of Jonny Bairstow for a duck, with Ben Stokes caught just on the stroke of lunch.

England's Jonny Bairstow was bowled for a duck by South Africa's Anrich Nortje
England’s Jonny Bairstow was bowled for a duck by South Africa’s Anrich Nortje (Adam Davy/PA)

The England captain had attempted to be positive from the outset, coming down the wicket early on, but his was the last wicket to fall on the first morning.

Otherwise there was little sign of the ‘Bazball’ aggressive batting approach on day one, with both openers starting cautiously and with few runs on offer against a South African bowling attack in good rhythm.

Bairstow went into the match in incredible form having averaged 76.46 in 2022 with six centuries, but he was unable to add to his total and was bowled for a duck by Anrich Nortje.

Ahead of the game, captain Stokes had singled out the opening pair of Alex Lees and Zak Crawley for praise following their century stand during the victory over India at Edgbaston last month, yet there would be no such feat against the Proteas at the home of cricket.

South Africa started in ideal fashion, with Kagiso Rabada claiming the wicket of Lees for just five runs, with Crawley following his fellow opener soon after.

England’s Alex Lees walks off after being run out
England’s Alex Lees walks off after being run out (David Davies/PA)

Lees had already flashed one high over the slips with a loose shot earlier in the over when on just one, but he did not last much longer as he was then caught behind by Kyle Verreynne, with Crawley caught in the slips – also off Rabada – for five.

The Proteas fast bowler had been a doubt going into the game having missed the final T20 against England with an ankle problem that also saw him sidelined for the four-day warm-up against England Lions at Canterbury.

Joe Root was unable to carry his form from the earlier series this summer into the Lord’s Test; the Yorkshireman had looked comfortable at the crease before he was trapped lbw by the towering Marco Jansen for just eight runs. Deciding to review the decision, it was upheld on umpire’s call to bring Bairstow to the crease as England slipped to 42 for three.