Paul Collingwood backs Ollie Pope to lead England fightback at Lord’s

Paul Collingwood hailed Ollie Pope for his unbeaten half-century and insisted England have the capacity to fight back after a difficult opening day of the first Test against South Africa at Lord’s.

South Africa’s charge was halted by the rain which ultimately forced an early close of play with England up against it at 116 for six.

Pope offered the only resistance for England, bringing up his 50 just before lunch, having played confidently and in the spirit of the so-called ‘Bazball’ approach adopted under Brendon McCullum, finishing the day unbeaten on 61.

England assistant coach Collingwood believes Pope embodied the spirit of the team instilled by head coach McCullum and captain Ben Stokes.

South Africa's charge was halted by the weather
South Africa’s charge was halted by the weather (Adam Davy/PA)

“I thought he was fantastic today,” Collingwood said.

“Our mantra of trying to put the opposition under pressure, he did that brilliantly today.

“I thought he was composed, he looked busy at the crease and on a wicket that was giving them quite a lot of assistance he got us into a position at the end of the day’s play where we’re not necessarily out of the game, but he’s batted exceptionally well and shown a lot of skill.

“Hopefully he can get back in tomorrow and get us into a position where we can see where we are in the game, and I guess we won’t know that until we’ve bowled on that same surface.”

Kagiso Rabada landed two early blows to remove opening pair Alex Lees and Zak Crawley, before Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow fell for eight and nought respectively to leave the hosts 55 for four.

Pope and Stokes looked set to lead a recovery, but the captain and wicketkeeper Ben Foakes fell either side of lunch to put South Africa in the box seat.

Ben Foakes' dismissal left England 116 for six
Ben Foakes’ dismissal left England 116 for six (Adam Davy/PA)

The rain forced the players off shortly after Foakes’ wicket at 2.09pm and did not ease up all afternoon before the end of play was finally called at 4:31pm.

Collingwood backed England to stick to their method, after their most difficult day with the bat under the new McCullum-Stokes regime.

“Everyone’s clear about how we’re going to go about our batting. That’s not going to change,” he said.

“We’re not always going to get it 100 per cent right. I thought at times today we soaked up pressure and at times we put it back on the bowlers.”

Ahead of the game, Stokes had singled out opening pair Lees and Crawley for praise following their century stand during the victory over India at Edgbaston last month, yet there would be no such feat against the Proteas.

Crawley in particular has struggled in recent months and has not scored a half-century at all in the English summer, but Collingwood insisted they are not looking for him to be consistent.

“The messaging is very clear with Zak. We don’t necessarily look for consistency with Zak,” Collingwood said.

“It’s about match-winning performances and being able to do special things.

“One innings ago he had a hundred partnership against India to chase down over 350 so we don’t forget about those contributions in our dressing room and they are huge contributions to winning games of cricket. He’s got a lot of talent, we know that.

“I’m sure he’s frustrated he’s not getting more runs but certainly in the dressing room ourselves we’re confident he can turn things around and have those match-winning contributions.”

Kagiso Rabada struck two early blows
Kagiso Rabada struck two early blows (Adam Davy/PA)

Rabada’s two wickets in 12 overs for just 36 runs came despite him being a doubt ahead of the game due to an ankle injury sustained during the T20 series against England earlier in the summer.

The fast bowler insisted that there is no animosity between the sides after a war of words in the build up to the first Test, believing his team have to adapt to the opposition.

“We’ve always bowled the same and there was a bit in the wicket today and I think we got rewards for putting the ball in the right areas,” Rabada said.

“Normally you tend to do the same thing over and over in Test cricket but I think you have slightly different plans to different batters.

“Different teams have different strategies and I guess it’s just about adapting to what the opposition throws at you.

“So there’s nothing really going around that brings any animosity or white line fever, but I think it’s just about adapting to the team’s strategy.”