Third Test, Trent Bridge, day one (stumps): England 296-3 v South Africa
A battling century from ex-captain Nasser Hussain steered England into a strong position against South Africa on the first day of the third Test on Thursday.
Hussain was unbeaten on 108 at the close of play and it was his innings, along with a fine century from Mark Butcher, that ensured the hosts ended the first day with the upper hand.
Butcher and Hussain put on 189 for the third wicket after England had got off to a poor start, losing openers Michael Vaughan and Marcus Trescothick with just 29 on the board.
And once Butcher had fallen for 106, Hussain and debutant Ed Smith added another 78 as they batted through until stumps.
Despite the inviting conditions England's innings started poorly and the captain, Vaughan, had scored a solitary run when Shaun Pollock made a leg-cutter leap and take the edge of his bat, with Herschelle Gibbs holding a fine low catch at slip.
Marcus Trescothick launched five sturdy fours in his 24 before Andrew Hall, who had just seen the opener drive him straight down the ground, made the next delivery move away off the seam and nick an edge.
Hussain made it clear before the match he had no intention of quitting the Test scene and he showed all his fighting qualities, surviving an early edge off Pollock.
Meanwhile Butcher was compiling a delightful century.
Pollock thought he had Butcher lbw in single figures, but replays proved umpire Daryl Harper's decision, that the ball pitched outside leg stump, was the correct one.
Apart from that close shave Butcher was in dominant form and he was especially severe on South African all-rounder Jacques Kallis, returning to the side after missing the first two Tests because of his father's death.
Butcher struck six boundaries in three overs from the all-rounder and when he fenced at Makhaya Ntini, and was caught behind, he had collected 21 fours in his 106.
England skipper Vaughan only made a single
Hussain, although never as fluent as Butcher, looked in very good form and he produced some delightful shots of his own, including several trademark square drives.
Kent batsman Smith overcame his intial nerves to make a solid 40 not out at the close.
Smith was one of two England debutants, with James Kirtly the other new boy, while South Africa's two changes saw the return of Kallis and Neil McKenzie replacing the injured Gary Kirsten.
The toss looks as though it was a good one to win as the pitch is expected to produce some variable bounce as the match progresses.
And with England finally enjoying the upper hand on the opening day of a Test for the first time this series, Vaughan will be much the happier of the two captains after day one.
England: MP Vaughan (capt), ME Trescothick, MA Butcher, N Hussain, ET Smith, AJ Stewart (wkt), A Flintoff, AF Giles, SJ Harmison, JM Anderson, RJ Kirtley.
South Africa: GC Smith (capt), HH Gibbs, JA Rudolph, JH Kallis, HH Dippenaar, N McKenzie, MV Boucher, SM Pollock, AJ Hall, PR Adams, M Ntini.