Anderson satisfied with opening day
James Anderson was pleased with the way things unfolded after England asked South Africa to bat first on day one of the second Investec Test at Headingley Carnegie.
After selecting Steven Finn ahead of spinner Graeme Swann, skipper Andrew Strauss unsurprisingly sent the tourists in upon winning the toss.
On a surface that looked suited to batting, the decision appeared costly as Alviro Petersen, who went on to complete his fourth Test hundred, and Graeme Smith added 120 for the first wicket.
However, England fought back with the quick dismissals of Smith, Hashim Amla and Jacques Kallis and, despite a fourth-wicket stand of 97 between Petersen and AB de Villiers, some excellent work with the second new ball reduced the visitors to 262 for five at the close.
Rather than being worried about only taking five wickets after inserting the Proteas, who are leading the three-match series 1-0, Anderson was happy with the work ethic of the four-man pace battery.
“We are pretty pleased with the way things went to be honest,” he said.
“We created chances all day; we could have got a few with the new ball; they played and missed a lot and a few catches went down.
“We were pretty pleased with the way we fought all day and that new-ball burst from the two big lads (Stuart Broad and Steven Finn) could have swung it back our way.”
Petersen and Smith were each given a life in an impressive opening partnership that lasted 37 overs.
The former was dropped by Alastair Cook at second slip, which is usually Swann's position, while Smith was caught in the cordon off a dead ball after Finn crashed his knee into the stumps on his arrival at the crease.
Anderson also spilled de Villiers shortly before the number five was ousted and the seamer admitted to being perplexed by the number of opportunities England have let slip by in recent times.
“I can't put my finger on it. If there was a magic answer, we would be catching everything. I don't know,” he added.
“We have put a few chances down. Our work ethic on our slip catching is still as high as it was. We still work hard at it.
“We had slip catching Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. We are working hard at it, but we are still putting chances down, which is frustrating for everyone involved. We don't mean to do it and we will be striving very hard not to do it in the future.”
Finn's selection came as no great surprise following his impressive form, although the decision to omit Swann certainly turned a few heads; it is the first time England have operated without a frontline spinner since 2003, ironically against South Africa at Headingley.
“I imagine it was a very difficult decision, he (Swann) has been an integral part of our team for a couple of years now,” Anderson said.
“It's not often you see teams going into a Test match without a spinner, but the captain and coach thought that the pitch lent itself to four seamers and didn't think spin would play a massive part.”
South Africa batsman de Villiers, dismissed for 47 late in the day, would have liked to have kept more wickets in hand but remained satisfied with his team's performance.
“I thought we played really well, the guys assessed the conditions early on with a solid partnership,” he said.
“We could have sped up a bit at the end. We all played around Alviro nicely. I would love to be three down at the end of the day, but they bowled too well at the end and things went their way. I'm not too unhappy, but it could have been better.”
Opener batsman Petersen was unbeaten on 124 at the close and de Villiers said: "Alviro was amazing, he supported me all the way and the way he played was inspiring.”