• South Africa win the toss and bowl first in damp conditions 
  • Dale Steyn removes England captain Alastair Cook for 0 in third over 
  • Alex Hales then edges to AB de Villiers fourth ball after lunch break 
  • Morning session restricted to just 6.1 overs by rain 

Adam Shergold for MailOnline

  • Adam Shergold

    Host commentator

A bit of spin for the first time today as Dane Piedt replaces Morne Morkel. And what an impact he has made! First ball turns wickedly, evades the edge of Root’s bat and hits high on the pads. Given out! 

England review it of course but the replays show it was going to hit the top of middle. Aleem Dar with the correct decision and more bother for England. 

Paul Newman: I knew it. I just bloody knew it. I’m not ever saying a batsman is playing well again. Spin has done for Joe Root!

BOSH!! That’s the class of Joe Root right there. Abbott not on the correct line and Root whacks him high and long to score SIX. Delicious shot and something to cheer the England fans. 

Nice riposte though and Root almost comes a cropper. Moves the bat out of the line just in time. Intriguing times but some thick cloud bubbling up again overhead. 

Paul Newman: Now, regular readers of this service will know how I hate to mention it if an England batsman is playing well. Because it always tempts fate and they are out as soon as I mention them.

There was an instance of fate tempting at Pietermaritzburg during the warm-up there when everything seemed to be going very well. ‘It’s all so quiet I bet we have an injury story today,’ said the man from the Guardian. Sure enough, that was the day Jimmy Anderson went in the calf.

So I really don’t want to say that Joe Root is playing quite wonderfully in very demanding conditions here while Nick Compton is displaying a good, solid technique and temperament too. I just won’t say it at all.

There’s a blast of techno music from somewhere within the ground every time the ball reaches the boundary and there it is booming out again as Root, watching it until the last moment, chops away through third man for FOUR. His best shot of the innings so far I’d say.

Root skilled at effectively rotating the strike and he picks up a simple single to keep England ticking over. It’s the only score of another tight over by Abbott. 

Still plenty of dark cloud overhead in Durban – hopefully we won’t be delayed again during this afternoon session.

No swing as yet for the bowlers, but plenty of bounce for Morkel as Compton dips under his first ball. Then a crisp drive which has Amla scrambling to his left and losing his sunhat. Brings up three. 

A little bit of good fortune for Root, whose push-up shot on a good length ball could easily have found a fielder but instead dissects them and rolls away for another three. 

South Africa’s bowlers have been right on the button today and Abbott keeps up the pressure with an admirable consistency outside the off stump to Compton. 

The fifth ball is a jaffa, though, and gets a glance from the batsman. A scrambled single ruins the maiden over and keeps Compton on strike. 

Morne Morkel has switched round to the Umgeni End. Shaun Pollock on the commentary reckons there’s more bounce on offer from that side – we will see.

Cries of catch as a ball nips back and catches Compton on the thigh pad – caught by Bavuma at short leg but nowhere near the bat or glove despite the appeals.

Just the one Compton run off that over – a pull to midwicket.

Nick Compton of England bats during day one

Kyle Abbott will be given a blast from the other end and his first one catches the edge of Root’s flighted bat – it drops a few feet short of third slip, to England’s great relief. 

Root sees out the over and it’s a maiden. Good stuff from Abbott. 

England need to rotate the strike and pick off runs whenever they can to reduce the pressure on them. Root is doing just that, playing to midwicket for a single.

Then Compton seizes an opportunity for the first time, latching onto a short Steyn ball and flashing it skilfully square to score FOUR more. Probably the poorest Steyn delivery so far and punished.

Root now facing up to Morkel as England try and get themselves out of this hole. He works the ball off the hip for a sharp single.

A loud appeal off the final ball – coming from behind the stumps, then belatedly from Morkel – as the ball whipped past Compton’s blade.

They take far too long deliberating and Hashim Amla’s eventual decision to review is waved away by the umpire. They thought about it for far longer than the permitted 15 seconds.

No trace of an edge in any case… As you were.

Probing line from Steyn continuing and Compton watches out three balls before picking up a single with a block into the off side and gets off the strike. 

Root, who has started his innings boldly, then plays between a couple of fielders for another single. No chance of a second though and Compton is sent back with a yelp.

A form of fresh hell for England now as Morne Morkel, on form during the India series, comes into the attack. 

Straight away he is sending down 140km/h deliveries and Compton flinches as it flies off down the leg side.

Root doing well to pick off that ball and a straight dab back down the ground gains two more. 

‘Welcome back Dale!!!’ reads the message on the big screen but he can’t complete another perfect over as Joe Root, the new man in, uses his soft hands on the bat to angle the ball away and score FOUR.

Rarely will you see a man so pumped on a cricket field… Steyn strikes again and debutant Alex Hales is back in the hutch fourth ball after lunch. 

Hales was keen to drive and instead edges and offers a regulation catch for De Villiers. England in all sorts of bother here.

I think Steyn may well be back on form as he punches the air in delight.

Paul Newman: We are back on and Dale Steyn has struck immediately. He’s really pumped up today on his return to the South African side, that’s for sure. It’s tough on Alex Hales. The break did him no good at all. And we have said that he needs to play his natural game so I’m not going to criticise him for going for that shot. Much depends on Joe Root now.


We are back at last! The rainclouds have cleared away, the covers are off and the teams have returned to the field for the day’s second session.

Dale Steyn has the cherry, with five balls left in the 7th over.

Well, we thought it was going to clear out but as soon as the two umpires returned to the middle to inspect conditions, the heavens opened again. Looks like today is going to be a test of patience for all watching. 

So we will have an early lunch and hope that the storm will pass us by. Here’s an update on everything that has unfolded so far by Chris Stocks at Kingsmead:

England lost captain Alastair Cook for a duck on a rain-shortened, stormy morning in Durban.

Cook came into this first Test on the back of a golden run of form, the opener’s haul of 1357 runs in 2015 seeing him close to within 125 of the record for the most scored by an England batsman in a calendar year – set by Michael Vaughan in 2002.

However, Cook was out for an 11-ball duck, edging Dale Steyn to Dean Elgar, at second slip as England stumbled to three for one in the first session of this four-Test series.

Steyn has not played any cricket since straining his groin during South Africa’s first Test against India in Mohali last month.

That series saw Hashim Amla’s side humiliated, the Proteas crashing to a 3-0 defeat – their first in an overseas Test series for nine years.

But back on home soil, the sight of a pumped-up Steyn running in was welcome for the locals here at Kingsmead, the world’s No1 ranked Test bowler celebrating Cook’s wicket with an eye-popping celebration that was a release of the frustration he has felt since being forced to sit out the last three Tests of that series in India.

At the other end, Alex Hales was making his Test debut and the Nottinghamshire opener, Cook’s eighth partner at the top of the order since Andrew Strauss retired in the autumn of 2012, settled in his innings nicely, unfurling a beautiful cover drive as he reached the premature lunch interval unbeaten on 10.

Nick Compton came out for his first Test innings in two-and-half years once Cook departed and the Durban-born batsman – making an emotional return to the England team in his hometown – almost run himself out when he went for a dicey single early in his innings.

The 32-year-old, though, survived and was unbeaten on one when the thunder brought a halt to proceedings just 27 minutes – and 6.1 overs – into a day that had also started half an hour late after morning rain in Durban.

Paul Newman: The rain has stopped here and the mopping up has begun. While we are waiting, how about a piece of music Mr Shergold?

How about the greatest Christmas song of all time to make me think of home? It’s got to be Christmas Day by Squeeze…..

Yes, why not Paul…

It appears the rain has intensified I’m afraid as the ground staff at Kingsmead fetch additional covers. Could be off for a little while as this storm blows over. Will keep you posted.

A few spots of rain in the air – not too heavy but enough – and the two umpires are taking the players off for a little while. There may be some lightning in the area as well, hence the decision to call the covers on. Safety first. 

An excellent start by South Africa, England have a chance to compose themselves.

Paul Newman: That’s a shame. That was a cracking opening to this Test series. South Africa struck that huge blow in dismissing Alastair Cook but Alex Hales has played nicely while Nick Compton could easily have been dismissed twice.

One nervous onlooker here in the press box is Compton’s uncle Patrick who is a leading local journalist here and is watching his nephew with keen interest. What a bowler Dale Steyn is. He’s returning from injury but he’s right on the mark from the off.

This will be a huge test for these inexperienced England batsmen when they go back on. Thunder is rolling around Kingsmead here so we may be off for some time I fear.

Hales just alleviates the pressure a little with a flick through backward square which collects three runs and takes England into double figures.

Compton then gets himself off the mark with a scrambled single. There was a shy at the stumps but the batsman, on the dive, was safely home just about.

Immaculate stuff from Steyn, who took about two balls to find his range this morning, and he’s putting the pressure on new man in Compton. 

Another good piece of fielding from Piedt, diving to his left, cuts off a certain run and the final ball is even closer. Lovely line once again, Compton edges and it drops just short of Van Zyl at first slip. 

England living on their nerves here

And Steyn’s enthusiasm is infectious as Abbott locates some early bounce and gives Hales something to think about. The second delivery sends the batsman crumpling forward.

But Hales reacts well and drives the next ball confidently for FOUR. Even the waterlogged outfield and the best efforts of Amla at extra cover couldn’t prevent that sweetly-timed shot reaching the boundary. 

Nick Compton is the next man in for England and Steyn immediately sends a peach of a ball flashing past him. Lovely ball and a little stare afterwards as well. Steyn with his tail up. 

Oh no, a disastrous start for England! Dale Steyn wasn’t offering anything to Alastair Cook, bowling a consistent line and now the England skipper has gone for one and edged to Elgar who has the simplest of catches at slip. A late Christmas present from Cook.

Paul Newman: What a blow that is for England! The captain has gone to a pretty ordinary shot without scoring. Alastair Cook has scored more runs in 2015 than any England captain has in any calendar year but he hasn’t added to his tally here.

What a big moment for Nick Compton on his ‘home’ground. He was far too tense in his first spell as an England player. Now the grandson of the great Denis has a lot of family watching him here.

Can he relax and play naturally? What a big moment this is for Compton and Alex Hales now with Cook gone early.

Steyn celebrates after dismissing Cook

From the Old Fort End will be Kyle Abbott and there’s a big cheer from the travelling contingent as Alex Hales gets off the mark first time with a flick off the pads and a couple of runs. It was a big no-ball from Abbott in any case.

Abbott soon finds his line though and Hales just a little tardy in getting the bat down to block. Responds with another nice shot off the pads but Dane Piedt gets down sharply to prevent a run.

Steyn doesn’t take too long to get his radar set-up, with a couple of fuller deliveries that Alastair Cook leaves alone. ‘Good start,’ comes the cry from AB de Villiers behind the stumps. 

The England fans in the crowd offer their customary rendition of Jerusalem – a rousing start to this Boxing Day morning. The sun straining to break through the thick clouds for the first time. 

And we start with a maiden over.

Openers Alastair Cook and Alex Hales of England head out

Grey and overcast skies overhead still, some moisture in the air and a tinge of green in the pitch. But it’s time to get started as umpires Rod Tucker and Aleem Dar make the final preparations. Bruce Oxenford is the TV umpire.

Alastair Cook and Alex Hales are the England openers. Dale Steyn the first to bowl…

Here we go then… time for the talking to stop and the action to begin as the two teams walk out onto the field at Kingsmead for the national anthems.

Lots of English support around the ground by the looks of it and I understand all tickets have been sold for this opening day. Far from full as yet though. 

Joe Burns and the fit-again Usman Khawaja hit centuries as Australia assumed total control of the second Test against West Indies at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, ending day one on 345 for three.

After the early wicket of David Warner following a rain-delayed start to the Boxing Day Test, Burns and Khajawa – back in the team after a hamstring injury at the expense of in-form Shaun Marsh – joined forces in the fifth over and gave the tourists a torrid time.

Burns (128) and Khawaja (144) shared a mammoth 258-run partnership as Australia took a stranglehold on the match.

Skipper Steven Smith (32) and Adam Voges (10) were the not out batsman at stumps after both centurions fell in the final session.

Paul Newman: Well, Alastair Cook has proved himself a useless tosser again. That’s his fourth loss in a row in Test cricket – funnily enough he won it in both warm-up games here- and England have been sentenced to bat.

It was inevitable, I felt, that the winning captain would want to bowl first. Not everybody here thinks that but I’m pretty sure Cook would have inserted South Africa had he won it.

Huge morning for Alex Hales now. He’s got to open the batting on debut against the best fast bowler in the world in Dale Steyn and his equally potent partner Morne Morkel under overcast skies with Durban having a reputation for humidity and swing.

Hales must be true to himself. He can’t be as hesitant as he was in the warm-ups. He’s got to be positive and play his shots. That’s what he’s been picked for.

He must not be bowled leaving the ball here has he was in both Pietermaritzburg and Potchefstroom. Hold your breath….

Hashim Amla tosses the coin into the damp Durban air, Alastair Cook calls heads but it comes down tails. Unsurprisingly, Amla elects to bowl first.

So a testing morning ahead for England and especially debutant Alex Hales.

Confirmation of the two teams: 

England 1 Alastair Cook (c), 2 Alex Hales, 3 Nick Compton, 4 Joe Root, 5 James Taylor, 6 Ben Stokes, 7 Jonny Bairstow (wk), 8 Moeen Ali, 9 Stuart Broad, 10 Chris Woakes, 11 Steven Finn.

South Africa 1 Stiaan van Zyl, 2 Dean Elgar, 3 Hashim Amla (c), 4 Faf du Plessis, 5 AB de Villiers (wk), 6 Temba Bavuma, 7 JP Duminy, 8 Dale Steyn, 9 Dane Piedt, 10 Kyle Abbott, 11 Morne Morkel.

Captains Alastair Cook of England watches Hashim Amla of South Africa perform the toss which South Africa won and chose to bowl

It is vital that England reverse their trend of making poor starts to overseas series if they are to win in South Africa.

They go into Boxing Day’s first Test with the home side not looking as strong as in the past and with home captain Hashim Amla under pressure, so England have to hit the ground running. South Africa look there for the taking.

The fact the second Test in Cape Town follows just two days after the first in Durban is due to end makes that good start even more important for an England side whose away record makes them look equally vulnerable.

CLICK HERE TO READ THE REST OF NASSER’S COLUMN

Ben Stokes of England lifts tyres during England’s training session on Christmas Day

Ground staff clear water from the outfield at Kingsmead following heavy overnight rain

Paul Newman in Durban: A very good morning and compliments of the season from Durban where we have a soggy start to what should be a cracking first Test and a fascinating series.

The weather here has been pretty dismal for the last 24 hours or so – after touching 40 degrees on Christmas Eve – and those extremes of conditions have made the Kingsmead pitch look green and perfect for bowling first on this morning.

The toss will be delayed I’m afraid but I’m reliably informed the bad weather has almost gone and we should be in business with only a slightly delayed start.

In fact we’ve just been told we will start only half an hour late, at 8.30am UK time, which is a lot better than it has seemed.

Huge toss, this. If England win it, bowl and get off to a flyer then South Africa could crumble because they look more vulnerable than they have done in years.

But if Hashim Amla wins it and lets Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel loose at the debutant Alex Hales then it could be a case of watching from behind your sofa.

Alastair Cook lost all three tosses in the UAE which was crucial. He could really do with winning this one.

Paul Newman: It was all going so well. England were looking so good in a proper warm-up match in Pietermaritzburg that comparisons were even being made with the super smooth build up to their winning Ashes winter under Andrew Strauss. Then a spanner was quickly thrown into the works.

Just when it felt that England just might be able to knock the world’s best team, looking unusually vulnerable after heavy defeat in India, off their lofty perch, injury struck Jimmy Anderson and reality came calling again.

It is the absence of the leader of England’s attack with a calf injury at Kingsmead on Boxing Day that reinforces South Africa’s status as favourites in a four-Test series they cannot afford to lose if they are to retain their world No 1 status.

CLICK HERE TO READ THE FULL ARTICLE

The scene is set at Kingsmead ahead of the first Test

I hope you all enjoyed your Christmas and aren’t feeling too stuffed this Boxing Day morning… 

If you are, then I invite you to settle down, relax and enjoy our coverage of what promises to be a spectacular Test series between South Africa and England. 

It all gets underway this morning at Kingsmead in Durban, with the early skirmishes likely to provide some early clues as to which way this four-Test series will go. 

Though England enter the series as underdogs, they will still fancy their chances against a South African side comprehensively outplayed by India last month. 

But the absence of James Anderson with a calf injury for this first Test has come as an untimely blow. 

All we can do now is wait and see. News of the teams and the toss coming up shortly ahead of the scheduled start of play at 8am.

Captains Alastair Cook of England and Hashim Amla of South Africa pose with the Basil D’Oliveira trophy

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Join us for live over-by-over coverage of the opening day of the first Test between South Africa and England at Kingsmead in Durban.

This four-Test series between two of the world’s foremost nations has been eagerly-anticipated and is certain to be gripping.

England’s pace attack has been injured by James Anderson’s calf injury, shifting the pressure onto Stuart Broad, Steven Finn and Chris Woakes.

ADAM SHERGOLD will provide live text coverage from 7.30am with updates from our cricket correspondent PAUL NEWMAN in South Africa.

 

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