All pals together, England began their journey to redemption yesterday. It went far better than most of those outside the dressing room feared, or than those inside it probably dared hope.
There is a long way to go in this third and final Test match, which will decide the series and the top of the world rankings, and despite the presence of the second fastest man alive, Yohan Blake, England must keep reminding themselves that it is a marathon not a sprint. But their beginning was tickety-boo.
South Africa finished the opening day on 262 for 7, displaying all the stubbornness that has been a hallmark of their character down the years. This was a recovery from 54 for 4 but equally England might have taken such a score had they been offered it at the start. Anything is better than the 637 for 2 accrued the last time the two sides were in the capital.
What was most important for England yesterday, after the angry kerfuffle of the 10 days before the match, was to demonstrate unity and purpose. They managed to avoid back-slapping and wise-cracking as they came down the pavilion steps but neither would have been a surprise. If the man who was not there, Kevin Pietersen, truly had issues within the team, then the team had to demonstrate they could do without him.
However, beyond that and maybe to achieve it, they needed a stroke of good fortune, the feeling that Lady Luck was smiling down, for when she deigns to do so it doesn't half put a spring in a sportsman's step. She smiled on England all right, she was almost having a laugh with them at one point, much to South Africa's annoyance.
On an overcast morning, it was one of those tosses when the losing captain breathes a sigh of relief. Andrew Strauss would have batted had the coin landed in his favour but may have been secretly happy that his team could bowl. With the sun peeping through, Graeme Smith had to bat.
Throughout the two games so far, England would feel that her ladyship was consorting with the tourists. There was an element of truth in this, though often she simply goes the way of the better team. They cannot say it now. But South Africa did not let their sense of grievance diminish their intense desire to win this series.
In the opening session, when it was vital for England's sense of wellbeing that they did not let the tourists get away, the umpires, whether on or off the field, could not have been more accommodating in their interpretation of the decision review system. DRS was the most significant component in shaping the match.
To have knocked over the opposition top four before the members had finished their first gins makes it sound as though the old England bowling unit was back and firing. Not so.
A lack of incisiveness from Stuart Broad at the start was followed by a lack of control from Steve Finn, who had been preferred to Tim Bresnan, at the Pavilion End, which perversely worked in England's favour. James Anderson was again the most impressive of the seam bowling trio.
It has become slightly worrying that England's attack is not as ruthlessly efficient as it once was. Perhaps they have done too much bowling, perhaps they have run into more skilled and obstinate opponents.
That was hardly to matter. Anderson provided England with an enormous surge of confidence by removing Smith. He reached for a ball outside off and despite a clear sound as it passed the bat, the umpire denied the appeal. England asked for a review which clearly indicated that the ball had grazed an edge at the precise moment the bat thudded into the ground, making it difficult for the umpire to make a call.
So far, so good. Alviro Petersen, centurion of Headingley, followed 10 overs later when he gloved a short ball from Finn down the leg side. Replays showed that his hand might - or might not - have been off the bat at the moment of impact, which would have rendered a verdict null and void. But off the batsman went.
There was no doubt whatever about the peach of a ball from Finn which removed Hashim Amla, beaten all ends up as it darted back off the slope and trimmed his off bail. It brought Amla's series average down to 120.
The Petersen dismissal was a mere warm-up for that of Jacques Kallis. He had barely begun to survey the scene, as is his wont, when England went up for a huge appeal for a catch behind. Kallis shook his head, quietly, confidently.
But on a nod from the wicketkeeper, Matt Prior, England asked for another review. It was a risky business for they had already wasted one earlier in their desperation to be rid of Smith.
It took an age of replays from every angle and there was no concrete visual evidence that the ball had taken Kallis's glove. There was, however, a noise at the key point and this swayed the third umpire Rod Tucker. Yet from certain views, Kallis' hand looked to be off the bat.
Mr Tucker made his decision, a nonplussed Kallis walked reluctantly off and an irate Smith appeared on the dressing room balcony, presumably to show he was irate.
England had the advantage, slight but significant. South Africa's repair work was slow and incomplete but the fifth, sixth and seventh wickets all put on more than fifty. AB de Villiers became Anderson's 48th victim at Lord's and JP Duminy his 49th, while Graeme Swann took his first wicket in 91 overs by bowling Jacques Rudolph.
When the light failed the sides were still sizing each other up, jostling for position, looking for the vital opening, That might continue until Monday.
Glove story: Should Kallis have gone?
England appeared to get lucky when Jacques Kallis was given out when it seemed as though his glove was not holding the bat. So what is the law?
MCC Law 32
1. Out caught
The striker is out caught if a ball delivered by the bowler, touches his bat without having previously been in contact with any fielder, and is subsequently held by a fielder as a fair catch before it touches the ground.
The following are to be considered as part of the bat - the whole of the bat itself; the whole of a glove (or gloves) worn on the hand (or hands) holding the bat; the hand (or hands) holding the bat, if the batsman is not wearing a glove on that hand or on those hands.
Timeline: England take hold of proceedings
South Africa captain Graeme Smith wins the toss and opts to bat first. The tourists are unchanged while England make two changes - Graeme Swann and Jonny Bairstow in for Tim Bresnan and Kevin Pietersen.
11.41am: Wicket South Africa 22-1; Smith 14
It's a perfect start for England, with James Anderson inducing a thin edge from Smith, which Matt Prior eagerly snaffles.
12.01pm: Review South Africa 27-1
South Africa gladly take drinks moments after Hashim Amla survives an lbw appeal from Steven Finn. England review the verdict but are unsuccessful, the ball clearly going over the stumps.
12.26pm: Wicket South Africa 49-2; Petersen 22
The tourists had looked to be rebuilding but Alviro Petersen gifts Finn his first wicket of the day, gloving one down the leg side to Prior as England take a firm hold.
12.29pm: Wicket South Africa 50-3; Amla 13
Finn produces a superb delivery to dismiss Amla. The triple-centurion at the Oval has no answer to a ball that nips back and clips off-stump.
12.37pm: Wicket SA 54-4; Kallis 3
England claim a precious and controversial scalp. Jacques Kallis appears to glove a leg-side ball from Finn and England review. Hotspot shows clear contact with Kallis' glove.
The tourists reach the interval without further loss as a sudden rain shower swoops over north-west London. It stops fairly quickly but it is heavy enough to delay the restart by 15 minutes.
2.39pm: Review SA 99-4
After surviving some uncomfortable fare from Finn, A B de Villiers escapes an lbw dismissal by a whisker as England lose their final review.
2.51pm: Wicket South Africa 105-5; De Villiers 27
His reprieve is brief, however, as England claim their first of the afternoon, Anderson provoking a tame drive from De Villiers, which picks out Alastair Cook.
3.46pm: South Africa 148-5
The partnership between J P Duminy and Jacques Rudolph approaches 50 but should have been broken when England fluff a run-out. Rudolph was stranded but Anderson's throw evades Jonathan Trott.
South Africa head off for tea having restored some calm during the afternoon. England still hold all the aces, and will hope for quick wickets after the restart.
4.26pm: Wicket South Africa 163-6; Rudolph 42
Graeme Swann finally dismisses one of the left-handers, bowling Rudolph with a ball that straightened to expose the South African tail.
5.24pm: Duminy fifty; South Africa 217-6
The watchful Duminy brings up his half-century - from 125 balls - shortly after his team's total passes 200. It is the 28-year-old's sixth Test fifty, and his second against England.
5.54pm: Wicket; South Africa 235-7; Duminy 61
Straight after the second new ball, Duminy's good work is undone as he edges a wide delivery from Anderson through to Prior.
6.27pm: Close; South Africa 262-7
A hostile burst from Anderson and Finn is prematurely ended by bad light after Dale Steyn ducks a Finn bouncer. Steyn and Philander, though, have steadied the ship.
Third Test (First day of five): South Africa have scored 262 for seven wickets against England; South Africa won toss
South Africa: First Innings
*G C Smith c Prior b Anderson 14, 29 balls 0 sixes 1 fours
A N Petersen c Prior b Finn 22, 54 balls 0 sixes 4 fours
H M Amla b Finn 13, 30 balls 0 sixes 3 fours
J H Kallis c Prior b Finn 3, 9 balls 0 sixes 0 fours
†A B de Villiers c Cook b Anderson 27, 47 balls 0 sixes 6 fours
J A Rudolph b Swann 42, 103 balls 0 sixes 5 fours
J P Duminy c Prior b Anderson 61, 158 balls 0 sixes 6 fours
V D Philander not out 46, 64 balls 0 sixes 5 fours
D W Steyn not out 21, 32 balls 0 sixes 3 fours
Extras (b7 lb5 w1) 13
Total (for 7, 87.4 overs) 262
Fall 1-22, 2-49, 3-50, 4-54, 5-105, 6-163, 7-235.
To bat M Morkel, Imran Tahir.
Bowling spells J M Anderson 23-5-58-3 (5-0-9-1, 4-1-15-0, 7-3-15-1, 3-0-7-0, 4-1-12-1), S C J Broad 20-4-57-0 (6-0-17-0, 5-2-4-0, 3-2-7-0, 3-0-17-0, 3-0-12-0), S T Finn 16.4-2-68-3 (1w) (12-2-48-3, 4-0-18-0, 0.4-0-2-0), G P Swann 22-6-53-1 (11-4-24-0, 3-1-8-1, 8-1-21-0), I J L Trott 6-1-14-0 (3-0-10-0, 3-1-4-0)
England *A J Strauss, A N Cook, I J L Trott, I R Bell, J W A Taylor, J M Bairstow, †M J Prior, S C J Broad, G P Swann, J M Anderson, S T Finn.
Progress Day 1 50 runs in 18.4 overs, Lunch: 65-4 in 24 overs (AB de Villiers 5, JA Rudolph 7), 100 runs in 35.2 overs, 150 runs in 52.5 overs, Tea: 151-5 in 55 overs (JA Rudolph 41, JP Duminy 26), 200 runs in 69.2 overs, JP Duminy 50 in 124 balls (5 fours), 250 runs in 83.6 overs, Close: 262-7 (VD Philander 46, DW Steyn 21).
Umpires HDPK Dharmasena (Sri Lanka) and SJA Taufel (Australia).
TV umpire RJ Tucker (Australia).
Match referee J J Crowe (New Zealand).