England's new captain, Joe Root, won the toss and elected to bat against South Africa in the first Test at Lord's on Thursday.
This was Root's first Test as England captain following his appointment as successor to Alastair Cook, who remains in the side as an opening batsman only.
A lightly grassed pitch and blue skies overhead offered the promise of good batting conditions in the first of a four-match series.
"It's going to be a good wicket, the sun is out and with it being dry it might deteriorate later in the game," said Root at the toss.
"I had a big say in this team and I'm excited to get going now," added the 26-year-old Yorkshireman, England's 80th Test captain.
Root had confirmed the team on Wednesday, with his Yorkshire colleague Gary Ballance recalled at number three after stacking up the runs in county cricket and the hosts playing two spinners - Moeen Ali and left-armer Liam Dawson on home debut - in a Lord's Test for the first time since 1993.
Meanwhile England's team also included South Africa-born opener Keaton Jennings, making his home debut.
This match was the first of 12 Tests for England in the next six months, including an Ashes series in Australia.
South Africa also had a new captain with Dean Elgar standing in for Faf du Plessis, who has remained at home to attend to his wife following the birth of the couple's first child.
"It looks a good wicket, and we'd like to have batted first but if there's any moisture first up we'll look to find it," said Elgar.
The Proteas gave a Test debut to 33-year-old opener Heino Kuhn and included Theunis de Bruyn rather than Chris Morris in their XI.
England lost eight Tests in a 2016 that culminated with a 4-0 series loss in India, although they did start the year with a series win in South Africa.
But South Africa have a remarkable away record.
Since losing to Sri Lanka in 2006, they have played 19 away Test series, won 13, drawn five and lost just one - to India in 2015/16.
That sequence includes a 2-0 win in a three-match series on their last visit to England in 2012.
They also have have yet to lose a Test at Lord's since their post-apartheid re-admission to international cricket - a sequence that includes four wins and a draw.
The bell to signal five minutes to the start of play was rung by former England batsman James Taylor, who was forced into retirement last year because of a heart condition.
England: Alastair Cook, Keaton Jennings, Gary Ballance, Joe Root, Jonny Bairstow (wkt), Ben Stokes, Moeen Ali, Liam Dawson, Stuart Broad, James Anderson, Mark Wood
South Africa: Dean Elgar (capt), Heino Kuhn, Hashim Amla, JP Duminy, Temba Bavuma, Theunis de Bruyn, Quinton de Kock (wkt), Vernon Philander, Keshav Maharaj, Kagiso Rabada, Morne Morkel
Umpires: Paul Reiffel (AUS), S Ravi (IND)
TV umpire: Simon Fry (AUS)
Match referee: Jeff Crowe (NZL)