England recovered promisingly after the loss of their captain Andrew Strauss for a duck in the first over of the much-anticipated Investec Test series against South Africa.

Strauss lasted only four balls of a cloudy morning, which saw him choose to bat first after play was delayed for 15 minutes by an untimely shower at the Kia Oval.

The England captain was lbw to Morne Morkel, via DRS. But Alastair Cook and number three Jonathan Trott then shared an unbroken stand to see the world number ones to lunch on 70 for one against their third-placed visitors.

South Africa captain Graeme Smith, as well as Morkel, deserved credit for striking a big first blow against his opposite number.

First of all, Smith began his 100th Test by promoting Morkel to take the new ball - in place of Dale Steyn, who has shared it with Vernon Philander since the latter began his international career.

It took some courage too, as well as good judgment, to risk a review so early in proceedings - after umpire Steve Davis had turned down Morkel's lbw appeal against the left-hander from round the wicket. Hawkeye simulated a straightening of the angle and leg-and-middle impact, and England were under significant pressure without a run on the board.

When Strauss had gone for a first-ball duck in his last Test against these opponents, in the innings defeat in Johannesburg two-and-a-half years ago, out-of-sorts Trott played a short and fretful innings he has doubtless been trying to forget ever since.

This time, he calmly drove his first ball past mid-on for four - and a frantic first over concluded with a Steyn misfield in the same position, and two more runs. It was to England's advantage that the remainder of the early skirmishes were less eventful, Trott and Cook each getting set in awkward conditions under floodlights.

Smith held Steyn back for almost an hour, in which England's second-wicket pair had few alarms on a pitch of only even pace.

Cook and Trott patiently waited for their scoring opportunities, both picking up boundaries across the never-ending Oval square when the South Africa pace attack dropped too short. For good measure, Cook also counted six with mis-hook at Steyn into the stand at long-leg - only the sixth six of the opener's Test career.