Crawley hits maiden fifty as England openers make strong start


Johannesburg (AFP)

Zak Crawley hit his maiden Test half-century as England made a strong start on the first day of the fourth and final Test against South Africa at the Wanderers Stadium on Friday.

England were 100 for no wicket at tea with Crawley on 57 not out and Dom Sibley on 39.

Crawley, 21, playing in his fourth Test, looked confident from the start, which was delayed until after lunch because of rain. He drove firmly off the front foot against a surprisingly unthreatening South African pace attack. He hit ten boundaries in facing 99 balls.

Defending an unassailable 2-1 series lead, England captain Joe Root decided to bat after his South African counterpart Faf du Plessis lost his seventh successive Test toss.

Both captains expected batting to be tricky on a pitch which usually favours fast bowlers –- and both teams opted for all-seam bowling attacks. But there was no discernible swing or sharp movement off the surface as England's young openers scored at better than three runs an over.

Sibley was given out caught behind down the leg side off new cap Beuran Hendricks when he had 10 but a review showed the ball had deflected off his pad.

On 12, Sibley was caught at gully by Temba Bavuma off an otherwise ineffectual Vernon Philander, but umpire Joel Wilson called no-ball.

Shortly before tea, Crawley, on 56, was hit on the helmet when he missed a pull against Anrich Nortje. There was a lengthy delay while he had a concussion assessment and waited for a replacement helmet, rejecting one before play resumed.