Vernon Philander successfully appeals for the wicket of England's Keaton Jennings. Photo: PA

LORD'S - South Africa were left to rue missed chances as Joe Root and Ben Stokes put England back in control at tea on the opening day of the first Test at Lord's on Thursday afternoon.

The English went into the interval on 182/4 a strong recovery after they lunched on 82/4, with Philander the star of a fine morning for the Proteas after taking three wickets. After lunch however, with the pitch flattening under a warm sun, Root and Stokes counterattacked against some conservative game plans by the tourists.

South Africa went ‘defensive’ very quickly after lunch, perhaps still scarred by the battering they took from Stokes 18 months ago. Here’s Stokes first four scoring shots were boundaries, and fielders in the inner-ring were rapidly dispersed to the boundary.  That allowed Root some comfortable singles and gradually the home side was able to pull itself back into the game.

South Africa had already missed Root twice in the first session;  the first on five, when he skied an attempted hook down to fine leg, where Aiden Markram on as a substitute for Philander, misjudged the flight of the ball, which flew over his out-stretched right hand and bounced inside the rope, and the next chance, with Root on 16, should have been taken when he drove loosely to gully, but JP Duminy saw the ball explode through his hands.

The new England captain made South Africa pay, fashioning an elegant half-century - the seventh consecutive Test in which he’s notched up an innings of 50 or more. By tea he’s reached 79 and in combination with Stokes had put on 106 for the fifth wicket.

The bruising all-rounder, who smashed a stunning double-century in the New Year’s Test at Newlands in 2016 was typically aggressive and wouldn't allow left arm spinner, Keshav Maharaj, operating from the Pavilion End to settle. He blasted him for one six into the old stand, undoubtedly waking up a few of MCC members still digesting lunch and later brought out the sweep shot to good effect as well.

He also got a reprieve when Morkel, operating around the wicket bowled him off his pads, only for umpire Paul Reiffel to signal ‘no-ball' after the big fast bowler had missed the frontline by 10cm.

‘No Balls’ had been a topic of conversation in the SA team meetings pre-match after they’d bowled 13 in warm-up game against the England Lions in Worcester last week.

By tea, Stokes had recorded a half-century, that included seven fours and the six off Maharaj. England were back on top.

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