Alastair Cook. Picture: GALLO IMAGES
Alastair Cook. Picture: GALLO IMAGES

London — The bad news for SA is that Alastair Cook will be at the crease when England resume on 171/4 in the third Test at The Oval on Friday.

The good news for all concerned is that the rain that took 31 overs out of the first day has‚ according to the weather forecast‚ done its worst.

So‚ any takers for a Cook century, and Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel sharing the remaining wickets?

Those three players deserve no less.

When the early close came on Thursday‚ Cook was 82 not out, having spent more than four-and-a-half hours at the crease.

Philander‚ his workload curbed by a stomach bug that kept him off the field for stages of Thursday’s play‚ conjured a first spell of 4-3-2-1 and ended the day with 2/17 from a dozen overs.

Kagiso Rabada‚ back from his ban for the second Test‚ managed not to swear when asked what he thought of Philander’s masterclass.

"I was watching from mid-wicket in the last session and I thought he bowled so well. Going off the field‚ I asked him for a few pointers. He is a really skilful bowler‚ especially in these conditions: he makes it look really simple‚" said Rabada.

Morkel took no wickets‚ but bowled better‚ particularly after lunch when Philander was indisposed‚ than he has done to take many a five-for.

Cook’s will be the key wicket on Friday.

His current partner, Ben Stokes‚ with whom he has shared 51‚ and Jonny Bairstow and Moeen Ali are quality players, and Stuart Broad and even James Anderson can hit, if not bat.

But Cook matters more than all of them put together.

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