South Africa v England, 1st Test, Pt Elizabeth, 1st day December 17, 2004

Flintoff and Hoggard grab the initiative for England

South Africa 273 for 7 (Rudolph 93, Dippenaar 79*) v England
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

Early cheer for Andrew Flintoff as he traps the debutant AB de Villiers lbw © Getty Images

England took three wickets in the morning - including both Graeme Smith and Jacques Kallis for ducks - and four more in the evening session to grab the honours on the first day at Port Elizabeth. South Africa regained some ground by batting through the afternoon without losing a wicket, but their final score of 273 for 7 represents a disappointing effort on a slow pitch.

England's heroes were the irrepressible Andrew Flintoff, who bounded in and bounced out three wickets, and Matthew Hoggard, who started off with the early wicket of Smith, with the second ball of the day, and grabbed two more late on with the second new ball as England worked their way through South Africa's long batting order.

For South Africa, Jacques Rudolph made a patient four-hour 93, and put on 112 for the fourth wicket with Boeta Dippenaar. Dippenaar remained unbeaten with a solid 79, from 193 balls, by the close.

The wicket of Smith, who started last year's series in England with double-centuries in both the first two Tests, was a major psychological blow. After winning the toss, he lasted only two balls before fending Hoggard to third slip, where Andrew Strauss took a good catch in front of him as it faded downwards, and South Africa were reeling at 0 for 1.

AB de Villiers, making his debut at 20, lived up to his reputation as a strokemaker, easing Steve Harmison for a four through the covers and then, when the next ball was pinged in shorter, leaning back and clattering it to the third-man boundary. Rudolph was no slouch to start with, collecting two leg-side fours as Harmison strayed.

The second-wicket pair prospered for more than an hour, until Flintoff broke through in only his second over. He brought one back at de Villiers, who was struck on the pads after a breezy 28, and Simon Taufel raised the finger despite suspicions that it might have been a little high (63 for 2).

Michael Vaughan immediately brought back Harmison, and this shrewd move paid immediate dividends, as Kallis seemed to lose sight of a 92mph screamer that hit his off stump on the full (66 for 3). Harmison, suitably bucked, thudded one into Dippenaar's pads, but this time the umpire's hand stayed in his pocket.

Jacques Rudolph dug deep to defy England with 93 © Getty Images

Rudolph and Dippenaar then dug in, frustrating the bowlers during a long, hot afternoon, and surviving a probing spell from Ashley Giles, the only specialist spinner in the match. Rudolph had a couple of narrow escapes: early on he'd flicked Hoggard just past Graham Thorpe at short leg, and later on Strauss was under the helmet when a similar half-chance scuttled through off Giles. Apart from that, though, Rudolph's closest call came when he glanced Harmison fine, but the speed of the ball took it beyond the grasp of the diving Geraint Jones for his tenth four.

Dippenaar, meanwhile played compactly, collecting most of his runs square of the wicket on the off side. He escaped a close shout for leg-before by Harmison before he'd scored, but by the end of the session was leaning back to lance Flintoff over point for four.

They had lifted the score to 178 when Rudolph's long vigil finally came to an end. He was in sight of his fifth Test century when he moved to 93 by turning Flintoff to the midwicket boundary for his 14th four. But the next ball, from round the wicket, was shorter, and Rudolph flinched away from it. It touched something on the way through - probably sweater or arm rather than bat or glove - and the appeal was turned down by Darrell Hair. But the delivery had done its job: Rudolph was shaken up by it. The next ball was of a similar length, but a little wider, and Rudolph nicked it through to Geraint Jones. There was no doubt this time, and Rudolph trudged off after 192 balls of defiance.

Zander de Bruyn soon followed, misjudging one from Flintoff that knocked back the top of his off stump (192 for 5), but then Shaun Pollock - rather surprisingly elevated above the recent Test centurymaker Andrew Hall in the order - chanced his arm for a bright 31.

But the second new ball did for Pollock, as he edged a probing delivery from Hoggard straight to Marcus Trescothick at first slip (253 for 6). Hall soon inside-edged Hoggard into his stumps (261 for 7), then Hoggard almost rounded off the day in the perfect fashion when Dippenaar edged low into the slips, but Trescothick couldn't quite cling on to the low half-chance, which scuttled away for four to take Dippenaar to 78.

So Dippenaar survived to fight another day. But England, with a still-newish ball at their disposal tomorrow morning, will be the happier bunnies in Port Elizabeth tonight.

Steven Lynch is the editor of Cricinfo.