Bowling Coach Ottis Gibson was happy with England’s opening-day performance as they began the task of trying to secure a series-clinching win over South Africa in Johannesburg.
The Proteas reached the close at 267 for seven although England might have been even better placed after their bowlers regularly saw the home batsmen play and miss.
James Anderson was perhaps the most aggrieved on that front, especially with the second new ball, as England’s record wicket-taker drew a blank.
With Stuart Broad also ailing under the stress of a virus that has struck down part of the squad already, Steven Finn and Ben Stokes stepped up to fill the breach and offer further proof England’s bowling stocks are in a good place looking ahead to the future.
The duo claimed two wickets apiece, with Finn again particularly impressive, after AB de Villiers had opted to bat after winning his first toss as Test captain.
“It certainly says that we’re not too reliant on Jimmy and Broady,” Gibson told ecb.co.uk.
“Ben Stokes has improved a lot in the last six months as a Test match bowler and Finny has been outstanding ever since he has come back into the team. It was good that those two got wickets.”
England had been guilty of failing to find their lengths early, allowing the Proteas to skip out to 117 for one, before Moeen Ali claimed the key scalp of Dean Elgar after lunch.
After the hosts had dropped Dane Piedt, the leading wicket-taker in the series before play, in favour of an all-out pace attack it offered signs that spin could play a part as the game wears on.
“There is a lot said about the wicket here not spinning so far Mo to come in with a very crucial wicket as well says a lot for the future of the team,” Gibson added.
After Moeen’s strike England’s bowlers noticeably tightened their lines and were rewarded as the Proteas lost six for 108 just before the second new ball was due.
While England were unable to make any further inroads with it, Kagiso Rabada and Chris Morris frustrated those attempts in an unbroken 42 stand, Gibson said his bowlers could still reflect on a good day’s work.
“On the first day of a Test match to get seven wickets you have to be satisfied as an opposition playing away from home as a bowling team,” he said.
“The home team won the toss and batted. They know their conditions so to get them seven down is pleasing and hopefully tomorrow we can come back in the first half-hour and hopefully we’ll be on it and get the three wickets as quickly as possible.
“The opposition played well, they played and missed quite a bit and it was quite frustrating because Jimmy bowled quite well with the new ball and he didn’t get anybody out. To have them seven-down is a good day for us.”