Kishen Velani led a stirring England middle-order fight back that also included a debut century from Ed Barnard to put his side in a strong position on day one of the first Coca-Cola under-19 Test match against South Africa at Sahara Park Newlands on Sunday.
England finished the day on 277/7 in 99 overs.
The home side won the toss and had looked to be on to a good thing midway through the fifth over after Lizaad Williams and Craig Kirsten had made a triple breakthrough to reduce England to 14/3 and later 48/4.
But Velani and Callum Jackson managed to steady the ship and take England to 81/4 at the lunch break. Velani fell soon after the interval for 49 (104 balls, 10 fours) but he had set the platform for a recovery as England got through the second session in good shape, scoring 87 runs for the loss of two further wickets.
Jackson (43 off 117 balls, 4 fours) went on to share an invaluable partnership of 63 for the sixth wicket with Ed Barnard and the latter then added a further 62 for the seventh wicket with his captain, Ollie Stone.
A key period for England came in the 15 overs immediately after tea leading to the second new ball when they upped the scoring rate considerably to add 49 runs to the total for the loss of Stone’s wicket.
But the South Africans struggled to break through with the second new ball. Barnard, like everybody else in this match, was making his Youth Test match debut but there was little sign of any nerves as he went on to a well deserved century off 158 balls with 10 fours that took England within reach of a total in the region of 300 plus. In the final session they made 109 runs for the loss of just one wicket.
South Africa was not helped by Kirsten being sidelined by a stress fracture of the lower back (he is expected to be ruled out of cricket for about two months) after bowling only four overs (1/12) and it was left to Williams to carry the attack. The latter bowled superbly in the morning session and again in the early afternoon when he was still managing to hit the splice of the bat with a soft ball after 60 overs!
He had well deserved figures of 4/37 at the end of the second session.
The loss of a front-line bowler meant that Shaylin Pillay had to take on an extra bowling load and he fulfilled a holding role exceptionally well.
In spite of bowling a man short the young South Africans stuck manfully to their task and had no trouble in completing their required number of overs in the day without going into the extra half-hour. They, in fact, bowled 99 overs instead of the mandatory 96.