England Lions 302 for 7 (Foakes 77*, Hendricks 2-40) v South Africa A
Mark Stoneman and Keaton Jennings made their respective cases to partner Alastair Cook in the upcoming Test series against South Africa, but Haseeb Hameed went run-less for the Lions on the first day of their unofficial Test against South Africa A. Stoneman and Jennings scored half-centuries each on the hottest June day for 41 years in the UK. South Africa A's attack certainly felt the heat.
On a fairly placid surface, they were made to toil and had their fielders to thank for all but two of the scalps they collected.
Hameed was the first to fall. After facing 11 balls without scoring, his eyes lit up at a wide half-volley from Duanne Olivier but Hameed did not get hold of it and skied to Aiden Markram. It was not the kind of shot Hameed would have wanted England selectors James Whitaker and Mick Newell to see but they were at the St Lawrence Ground, keeping an eye on performances ahead of next week's Lions' game against the senior South Africans.
They were treated to a 105-run second-wicket stand between Stoneman and Jennings, in which runs came fairly easily. Though Olivier and his new-ball partner Beuran Hendricks' lines remained testing, Junior Dale and Dane Piedt were looser. Stoneman and Jennings were authoritative in their shot-selection and boundaries came down the ground for both batsman. Stoneman's fifty came first, off 94 balls, and he looked well set to keep going but a moment of Temba Bavuma magic in the field stopped him.
Stationed at point, Bavuma flung himself at a Stoneman cut to give Hendricks some reward and South Africa A created a small opening. Jennings threatened to shut it firmly when he took on Piedt and brought up his fifty off 106 balls - with 36 runs in boundaries - but Piedt struck back when he bowled Nick Gubbins. Jennings quietened and five overs later cut to gully to give South Africa A their most prized wicket.
The Lions lost 3 for 27 and matters seemed evenly poised halfway through the day but Ben Foakes almost single-handedly changed that. He put on 64 runs for the fifth wicket with Dan Lawrence, who hooked to deep square, and 48 for the sixth with Sam Curran, who should have been run out on five but Kuhn's throw missed. Instead he was eventually lbw to Theuis de Bruyn for 18.
Curran's late wicket gave South Africa A an energy they lacked, especially as the ball grew old, the sun beat harder and the pitch seemed to become easier to bat on but they did not enjoy any more success until they took the second new ball. Four overs before the close of play, Hendricks returned to have Overton caught behind and bring South Africa A back onto a fairly even keel.
Perhaps more notable were the 17 no-balls the South Africa A attack sent down, most of them from the Nackington Road End where the seamers struggled to adjust to the slope.
As much as England are using this match to aid their decisions on their Test squad, so are South Africa. Olivier will compete with the likes of Morne Morkel, Chris Morris and Wayne Parnell - who are all in the T20 squad - for a paceman's place. The A tour has not done much for Olivier's case so far but his form in South Africa, where he topped the first-class wicket-charts, may not have faded from memory. In the batting department, all eyes will be on Kuhn and Markram, who are competing for a spot in the Test opener's role should Stephen Cook lose out, while Bavuma will also be keen to impress.