LONDON - South Africa have not lost a Test at Lord's since 1960, recording four victories and two draws in six visits post-readmission. That redoubtable record looked set to come under threat over the next two days as England ground their way into a dominant position in the first Test of the series.

Inch by inch, Joe Root's new(ish) England side took control on the third day. Moeen Ali again played a key role with the ball, his impressive personal contribution continuing with a four-wicket haul as South Africa settled for a first-innings deficit of 97; Alastair Cook then passed 50 for the 15th time in a Lord's Test as England stretched their lead beyond 200 on another hot and hazy afternoon in the capital.

The situation would have been trickier still for South Africa had it not been for contrasting half-centuries from Quinton de Kock and Vernon Philander earlier in the day. The majority of Philander's innings came after he had been struck a painful blow on the hand by James Anderson, although X-rays confirmed he had not suffered a break. He did not return to the field until late in the evening session and was not called on to bowl.

Cook had missed out in the first innings but was not about to let a second opportunity go begging. South Africa lost both their reviews inside ten overs trying to dislodge him and although he was separated from his opening partner, Keaton Jennings, after an 80-run stand, Gary Ballance helped steer England to the close with the majority of their batting resources intact.

At one stage in the evening session, Cook amassed a single run over the course of 40 deliveries, a man perfectly content to embody the statelier virtues of a bygone era amid the carnival of modern batsmanship. The practice of leaving the off side open to try and make Cook drive against Keshav Maharaj's spin resulted in a brace of well-timed cover drives early on, while another four boundaries were eased behind square on the off side.

He was inconvenienced, if not ruffled, by lbw reviews off the bowling of Morne Morkel, whose delivery was shown to have pitched outside leg stump, and Maharaj, who struck him outside the line of off with a sharply spinning ball. Morkel was eventually rewarded for a probing spell after tea as Jennings wafted flat-footed to be caught behind.

The sense that South Africa were losing their way on a ground where they have enjoyed much success over the last 25 years was betrayed early on, when Temba Bavuma, who had recorded his seventh Test fifty during the opening exchanges, was dismissed by Moeen. Bavuma began heading off the pitch vaguely towards the gap in the boundary boards by the Warner Stand before realising his mistake and being redirected to the pavilion gate.

De Kock was more sure-footed, marking his first Test innings at Lord's with the second-fastest fifty on the ground, from 36 balls. Alongside Philander's battling knock, they prevented South Africa's first innings from being completely subsumed, although there was also a sense of good starts being wasted: of the four South Africa batsman to reach 50, including captain Dean Elgar on the second day, none managed more than Bavuma's 59.

Philander was struck several times during his stay but replied with a few hefty blows off the bat, despite his discomfort. De Kock had dominated the scoring during a rapid stand of 66, before Philander helped add another 47 for the last two wickets.

Root had turned to his spinners early on and, with the surface hinting at variable bounce and increased turn as it cooked under the sun, they will doubtless have an even greater role to play later in the game. Liam Dawson enjoyed a more successful outing as he and Moeen shared six wickets - only the second time since 1999 that two England spinners had done so in the first innings of a home Test.

Kagiso Rabada, South Africa's nightwatchman, got through the first 40 minutes before nicking Dawson into Jonny Bairstow's gloves to end a stand of 41 and England made an even bigger breakthrough in the following over when Moeen had Bavuma taken at slip, playing back as a delightfully flighted ball drifted away and then spun in to clip the outside edge.

De Kock arrived low in the order, at No. 8, but not low on confidence. Stuart Broad was twice taken for three fours in an over as de Kock, who scored his maiden Test hundred against England last year, set about matching the grand surroundings with an innings of equivalent pomp. Philander, meanwhile, dealt bravely with Anderson from the Pavilion End.

Although Broad found shape to beat de Kock's outside edge in his first over with the second new ball, he was soon sent on to the back foot: Broad's next three deliveries were dispatched to the rope - clipped off the legs, cut and then driven square. The final over of Broad's spell saw him receive similar treatment, with the last of de Kock's three fours in five balls a magisterial, rubber-wristed drive through midwicket.

Moeen then replaced Broad from the Nursery End but de Kock got stuck into him, too, twice skipping out to loft the spinner over mid-on to go to his half-century. With the adrenalin still pumping, however, he threw his hands at a drive off Anderson from the ball he faced and was scooped up by the diving Stokes at point.

Anderson had bowled almost exclusively to Philander to that point, though his only successes were counted in marks left on his opponent. One kept low, another hit a crack and jacknifed away from the right-hander - worrying signs, perhaps, for the team batting last - and Philander had just been beaten by a similar delivery when he was rapped on the bottom hand by a ball that came back and jumped venomously off a length. Philander grimaced, received some treatment and got back to the job. Come the close, there was more work to do still.






(OVERNIGHT: 214-5):

D Elgar c Ballance b Ali    54

H Kuhn c Cook b Broad    1

H Amla lbw b Ali 29

JP Duminy lbw b Broad    15

T Bavuma c Stokes b Ali  59

T de Bruyn c Bairstow b Anderson              48

K Rabada c Bairstow b Dawson    27

Q de Kock c Stokes b Anderson    51

V Philander b Ali 52

K Maharaj lbw b Dawson               9

M Morkel not out             2

EXTRAS: (b4, lb7, nb3)     14

TOTAL: (all out; 105 overs)            361

FOW: 1-10, 2-82, 3-98, 4-104, 5-203, 6-244, 7-248, 8-314, 9-337, 10-361

BOWLING: J Anderson 19-6-44-2, S Broad 18-5-62-2, M Wood 20-5-65-0, L Dawson 15-2-67-2, M Ali 20-7-59-4, B Stokes 13-2-53-0


A Cook not out   59

K Jennings c de Kock b Morkel      33

G Ballance not out           22

EXTRAS: (lb4, nb1)            5

TOTAL: (1 wkt; 51 overs) 119

FOW: 1-80

BOWLING: M Morkel 10-5-25-1, K Rabada 13-5-35-0, K Maharaj 19-8-34-0, JP Duminy 9-2-21-0

TOSS: England

UMPIRES: S Ravi, P Reiffel