South African openers Stephen Cook and Quinton de Kock showed plenty of heart and application as they batted through a tricky morning session and took the hosts to 100 without loss at lunch on the first day of the second Test against New Zealand at SuperSport Park in Centurion on Saturday.
De Kock was looking particularly assured and had done a wonderful job as a stand-in opener for the injured Dean Elgar, reaching 58 not out at the break, stroking 11 fours in a quality innings.
Cook was 40 not out and had battled through some tough times as he played second fiddle to his gifted left-handed partner.
There was a trace of green grass in the pitch when New Zealand won the toss and elected to bowl first in cool conditions, but South Africa probably would have batted first anyway, given the Centurion pitch’s history of becoming more up-and-down as the game progresses.
Cook survived an early lbw review by Trent Boult thanks to an inside-edge, but he scratched about at the start while De Kock settled quickly. A beautifully-controlled square-drive for four by the wicketkeeper/batsman off seamer Doug Bracewell would see the 50 raised off the first ball after the drinks break.
De Kock was given a life on 42 when he inside-edged a drive at Bracewell but wicketkeeper BJ Watling couldn’t hang on to a tough chance as he changed direction and dived to his right.
De Kock reached his 50 off just 73 balls, scoring all around the park but being particularly impressive off his legs and square of the wicket on the off-side, were he punched Boult for his 11th boundary to bring up his third Test half-century with his shot of the morning.
Although the South African openers needed some luck to survive, the Black Caps bowlers did err too often in terms of line, in between bowling some superb deliveries. The late movement of Bracewell provided the most problems for the batsmen, but he still went for 27 runs in six overs.
The withdrawal of regular opening batsman Dean Elgar, who twisted his ankle in training on the eve of the game, necessitated the only change to the South African team, with Stiaan van Zyl replacing the left-hander. The Cobras batsman will bat in the middle-order, however, where he is obviously more comfortable.
New Zealand are making use of the same XI that did duty in Durban.