Hashim Amla was yet again the scourge of England's bowlers, and fielders, early in the fourth NatWest Series match at Lord's.
England dropped the prolific South Africa batsman for the sixth time this summer, when James Tredwell failed to hang on to a sharp chance away to his left at second slip off Steven Finn.
By the time 15 overs were up, Amla had moved from four when he was put down to 23 out of 48 for none after England had won an important toss and put the visitors in under cloud cover.
A 10.15am start increased that advantage, with the series level at 1-1 with two to play, and it was incumbent on Amla and his opening partner Graeme Smith to survive before they could think about establishing momentum.
England have already conceded more than 500 runs to Amla, including his historic triple-century at The Oval, since he arrived here in July.
They have not helped themselves either, though - and for good measure they squandered their sole permissible review on him.
Amla was not unlucky on 13 when Richard Illingworth rightly gave him not out lbw off Finn, and DRS confirmed the fact.
England's frustration was augmented when second-change Ravi Bopara could have overturned Illingworth's next lbw not-out against Amla, on 14 this time, if only they had not already used up their second chance.
South Africa therefore emerged intact in the opening exchanges, but would need to be realistic about what total they could aspire to on a slow surface.