Eng v SA: England fight back after Cook, Amla tons

Cook made 115 and Amla hit 109 in a South Africa total of 329 for five at the close of play. The pair put on 202 for the second wicket before Amla's dismissal sparked a collapse in which four wickets, including that of Cook, fell for 36 runs.

Stephen Cook... century on debut.   -  Getty Images

Debutant Stephen Cook and Hashim Amla shared a double century partnership for South Africa before England fought back on the first day of the fourth and final Test at SuperSport Park on Friday.

Cook made 115 and Amla hit 109 in a South Africa total of 329 for five at the close of play. The pair put on 202 for the second wicket before Amla's dismissal sparked a collapse in which four wickets, including that of Cook, fell for 36 runs.

Cook, called up at the age of 33 when the South African selectors finally opted for a specialist opening batsman to partner Dean Elgar, was calm and organised from the start of his 218-ball innings during which he hit 14 boundaries.

Amla, four months younger than Cook but 91 matches richer in Test experience, was back to his fluent best as he reached his century off 131 deliveries with 18 fours.

Earlier, Elgar fell to a freak catch by James Taylor. After Elgar's wicket in the 11th over, the English bowlers has struggled to get a breakthrough.

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Taylor, at short leg, showed good anticipation and presence of mind when Elgar’s stinging shot hit him on his leg and the ball somehow got stuck around his calf, allowing him to pluck it before it could drop to the ground.

Elgar had danced down to wicket to Moeen Ali and will count himself exceedingly unlucky to have been dismissed after a lengthy review by the television umpire.

It was the third extraordinary catch in the last two Tests for the diminutive Taylor, thriving in the most dangerous position on the field.

Cook began his Test career hitting a four off the first ball of the game as James Anderson’s opening delivery strayed down leg side. It set the tone for the opening session with England being inconsistent with their bowling line, often drifting down the leg-side and erring in length on the short side.

The 33-year-old Cook, whose father Jimmy was dismissed first ball when he debuted for South Africa in 1992 at the age of 39, was one of five changes from the third Test, made by the home team.

South Africa captain AB de Villiers won the toss and elected to bat on a wicket expected to provide for ideal batting on the opening day. England, who have taken an unassailable 2-0 lead in the series, made just one change to their team with seamer Chris Woakes, who played in the first Test, coming in for the injured Steven Finn.