Amla, Cook lead strong start for SA

Pretoria, January 22

Stephen Cook became the 100th batsman to score a debut Test century and his innings of 115 helped South Africa amass 329-5 on the first day of the final Test against England on Friday in their bid to salvage pride in a lost series.

Hashim Amla scored his 25th Test century as he and Cook shared a second-wicket stand of 202 but captain AB de Villiers departed second ball on a day of contrasting fortunes as England, 2-0 up in the four-Test series, fought back to claim four wickets after tea. Temba Bavuma (32) and Quinton de Kock (25) were not out at the close of play at Centurion Park.

Handed his debut at the age of 33, one of five South Africa changes from the team badly beaten in the third test in Johannesburg last week, Cook brought his domestic form to the Test arena with a dream start to his international career. He survived two dropped catches, two close run-out calls and an lbw appeal unsuccessfully reviewed by England before reaching three figures — a nervous spell in the 90s exacerbated by the departures of Amla and De Villiers.

But Cook, whose father Jimmy was dismissed first ball on his debut for South Africa in 1992 at the age of 39, looked organised from the start, hitting a four off the first ball of the match when James Anderson's delivery strayed down leg side. He should have been out on 47 but was dropped by wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow off Stuart Broad's bowling. He was eventually bowled after an innings of 187 balls when he got an inside edge to a delivery from Chris Woakes.

Amla, who gave up the captaincy after the second test to concentrate on his batting, looked effortless as he raced to three figures, scoring 109 off 168 balls with 19 boundaries before he played on to Ben Stokes. De Villiers, captain for his second Test, was out for his second duck in successive innings, caught at second slip by Joe Root off Broad.

Yet another freakish catch by James Taylor at short leg dismissed Dean Elgar for 20 for the first wicket of the day as the short leg fielder continued a run of spectacular dismissals in the series. JP Duminy was Moeen Ali's second wicket, trapped lbw for 16 — the last wicket of the day as England checked South Africa's progress after they had look poised for a huge total on 237-1.