Rain stops play as Ollie Pope bids to lead England recovery against South Africa

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Ollie Pope’s attempts to get England out of trouble after they lost early wickets were dampened by a rain delay after lunch on the opening day of the first Test against South Africa at Lord’s.

The 24-year-old brought up his half-century just before the break having played positively, and he was unbeaten on 61 with England 116 for six when the rain began to fall in London.

Pope had to remedy a dismal situation in the morning session after England slipped to 55 for four, including the loss of Jonny Bairstow for a duck, with Ben Stokes caught just on the stroke of lunch.

Spectators put up umbrellas as rain stops play during day one at Lord's
Spectators put up umbrellas as rain stops play during day one at Lord’s (Adam Davy/PA)

Ben Foakes was the only wicket to fall – bowled by Anrich Nortje – in an afternoon session that lasted just over half an hour and six overs.

Stuart Broad briefly entered the field of play, but only faced two balls including taking one to the shoulder before the umpires called the players in.

England captain Stokes had attempted to be positive from the outset, including coming down the wicket early on, but the hosts kept losing wickets, despite a positive run rate of 3.6 an over.

There were few signs of the ‘Bazball’ aggressive batting approach on day one, with both openers starting cautiously and with few runs on offer against a South African bowling attack in good rhythm.

Bairstow went into the match in incredible form having averaged 76.46 in 2022 with six centuries, but he was unable to add to his total and was bowled for a duck by Nortje.

Ahead of the game, captain Stokes had singled out the opening pair of Alex Lees and Zak Crawley for praise following their century stand during the victory over India at Edgbaston last month, yet there would be no such feat against the Proteas at the home of cricket.

South Africa started in ideal fashion, with Kagiso Rabada claiming the wicket of Lees for just five runs, with Crawley following his fellow opener soon after.

South Africa’s Kagiso Rabada celebrates the wicket of England’s Alex Lees
South Africa’s Kagiso Rabada celebrates the wicket of England’s Alex Lees (Adam Davy/PA)

Lees had already flashed one high over the slips with a loose shot earlier in the over when on just one, but he did not last much longer as he was then caught behind by Kyle Verreynne, with Crawley caught in the slips – also off Rabada – for five.

The Proteas fast bowler had been a doubt going into the game having missed the final T20 against England with an ankle problem that also saw him sidelined for the four-day warm-up against England Lions at Canterbury.

Joe Root was unable to carry his form from the earlier series this summer into the Lord’s Test; the Yorkshireman had looked comfortable at the crease before he was trapped lbw by the towering Marco Jansen for just eight runs. Deciding to review the decision, it was upheld on umpire’s call to bring Bairstow to the crease as England slipped to 42 for three.

England went into the early tea break at 116 for six.