Anderson, though, ensured a sold out Old Trafford crowd went home with a spring in their collective step.
Then Anderson returned for his deadly second spell.
Amla- He remains the best South African batsman regardless of his slight dip in form.
However, Morne Morkel and Rabada set South Africa's example with the new ball, hammering out an edge-threatening line and length to England's brace of left-handed openers, before Duanne Olivier provided pace, enthusiasm and the odd unplayable delivery in a lively return to the ranks.
But Amla feathered a delivery down the leg side off Toby Roland-Jones, and Kuhn edged to Stokes off Moeen Ali.
England are looking to give captain Joe Root victory in his first series in charge, as well as winning a first series in four.
Bairstow's dominance of that half-century last-wicket stand was illustrated by the fact he scored 46 of the runs and exposed Anderson to just 15 of the final 55 balls of the innings.
England's Jonny Bairstow was "desperately disappointed" not to reach his hundred after being given out lbw on 99 during the second day of the fourth Test.
It continues a spate of various physical ailments to have afflicted him all summer, beginning with an ankle problem which pre-dates South Africa's arrival in mid-May, taking in a badly-bruised finger in the first Investec Test at Lord's - before the tummy troubles which left him on a hospital drip overnight mid-match last week.
Moeen is operating with confidence, keeping Stokes on red alert at slip - a tough catch was dropped there from a Quinton de Kock flash when South Africa were 132 for five.
South Africa's desire to pick someone as important as Philander was understandable, but it does not matter how good a player is if he is unable to play his best due to illness (or other reasons like injury or mental state). Du Plessis was guilty of gifting runs to Bairstow on a pitch that was still offering something, as he stationed 10 men at the boundary. Even a review could not save him there.
But he still bowled 32 overs in the two innings and took two wickets, albeit at "70-80 intensity" and frequently having to go back to the dressing room.
After passing 5000 runs by driving Morkel and then bringing up 50, there was no escape for Root when Olivier had him plum in front, but the television umpire did spare Bairstow late in the day, replays appearing to show that an edge from Maharaj did not carry to Dean Elgar.
Then, armed with the new ball and doubtless eager to christen his end of the ground with a wicket worthy of the name, Anderson wasted no time in making his mark.