First day to the hosts
The opening day of this much-anticipated England - South Africa series lived up to its billing in every way.
Hard-fought and determined cricket from both sides produced a day which ended with England comfortably ahead on points having been put into bat on a pitch that had been sweating under the covers for two days.
Early in his innings, Kevin Pietersen was hit on the head by Dale Steyn to add spice to that particular side show. Pietersen then batted brilliantly as he and Ian Bell rescued England from a potential collapse.
South Africa's much-vaunted pace attack failed to make the most of the morning session because they all bowled too short. Steyn was so out of sorts that South Africa captainGraeme Smith only gave him three overs, but Morne Morkel and Makhaya Ntini were equally to blame, and this helped Andrew Strauss - who batted very well - and Alastair Cook to negotiate what should have been a tricky morning.
It required a poor umpiring decision to part the openers, with Darryl Harper failing to see that the delivery from Morkel to Strauss landed comfortably outside the leg stump. It is never easy for umpires, and Strauss did not help himself by moving a long way to the off-side, but right-arm bowlers almost always need to make the ball either swing or seam into a left-hander to get an lbw decision from over the wicket, and this ball did not do either.
In the next over, Michael Vaughan was cleaned up by Steyn (no-one has mentioned the captain's recent record when debating the man who must make way for Andrew Flintoff). And it was 3-3 in 13 balls when Cook was surprised by Morkel's extra bounce, and fended a catch to slip for 60.
Bell started very positively - "drop me if you dare" was the message to the selectors with Flintoff waiting in the wings - driving elegantly through the off-side, but it was Pietersen who cut loose by attacking the left-arm spinner, Paul Harris, scoring 20 from two overs. If it does come down to a battle between the spinners at Headingley, and at The Oval in particular, Harris should not be capable of holding a candle to Monty Panesar. It would certainly be in England's interests for the pitches to encourage a battle between the two spinners.
This pitch might well be faster with more bounce on the second and third days as it dries out, and England are now well placed - with Pietersen so driven and Bell so determined - to post a formidable first-innings total.