South Africa v England, 2nd Test, Cape Town, 2nd day January 3, 2016

Stokes record and Bairstow's ton tramples South Africa

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Close South Africa 141 for 2 (Amla 64*) trail England 629 for 6 dec (Stokes 258, Bairstow 150*, Hales 60, Root 50) by 488 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

Play 02:19
'Stokes on the foothills of greatness'

This was joy, utter joy, no matter where your loyalties lie: a feat to stir the youthful, cheer the sick and bring reveries from the old. Ben Stokes bludgeoned one of the great attacking Test innings - the second fastest double century in Test history - on the second day of the second Test in Cape Town and those who were there to see it must have been enriched by the experience.

When it was all over, shortly before England's declaration at 629 for 6, a humungous total they could not have remotely imagined at start of play, Stokes' demolition job had brought 258 from 198 balls with 30 fours and 11 sixes. Freckled of complexion and brawny of stroke, he wielded his bat like a wrecking ball, razing South Africa's attack to the ground.

Even his dismissal summed up South Africa's broken state of mind. Stokes heaved at Kagiso Rabada, AB de Villiers dropped the skier at mid-on - AB of all people - but he steadied himself to throw down the stumps and complete a run out as Stokes jogged towards the bowler's end, by then entirely sated. England declared two balls later once Jonny Bairstow's 150 - an emotional maiden Test hundred that will receive limited recognition - had been gathered in.

South Africa will resume the third day 488 adrift with eight wickets intact after enduring an extraordinary batting assault. England struck their second-highest partnership in Test history, 399 in 59 overs, with Bairstow, no slouch himself, playing an intelligent subordinate role. England made 312 for 1 off 38.5 overs in the day.

Statistics underlining the achievement jostled for attention. It was once-in-a-lifetime, jaw-dropping stuff with virtually every delivery from a disorientated South Africa attack seemingly ripe for slaughter. There was little of the resourcefulness worthy of the No.1-ranked side in the world.

Stokes played with untrammelled power as blue skies shone over Table Mountain and 12,000 cheering England supporters revelled in every moment. It was a stupendous achievement, a day to treasure, the time-honoured rhythms of Test cricket giving way to something more murderous.

Barely anything threatened Stokes' immense sense of feelgood. On 138, a six against the offspinner Dane Piedt barely cleared the outstretched hands of van Zyl, who significantly was a yard off the boundary at long off. On 197, Chris Morris almost yorked him, perhaps to the bowler's surprise. And he pottered around for, oh, all of a few seconds before he pulled Morne Morkel through midwicket to reach 200.

Jonny Bairstow celebrates his maiden Test century on the second afternoon at Newlands © Getty Images

When the ball comes onto the bat, and cricket is a simple game, Stokes' destructive power knows few bounds. This was only his third Test hundred, to follow equally exciting affairs against Australia - including Mitchell Johnson at his fiercest - in Perth and New Zealand at Lord's, and there have been malfunctions along the way, but it was an innings that spoke volumes about the importance of the combative allrounder, able to balance a side and change a game in an instance with bat or ball.

His mind was entirely uncluttered, his physique more demoralising by the minute. His backlift was huge and flowing. Shot selection became entirely a matter of where he would hit the ball - pulls bludgeoned through mid-on a speciality, and not always against balls all that short - because he rarely defended and left only deliveries that were virtually too wide to reach. He powered up and let the shots flow.

Newlands was at its most seductive for batsmen - and Stokes took a golden opportunity at face value. He is not the sort to see fears where none exist. South Africa lacked the waspish pace of Dale Steyn, or the Cape Town nous of Vernon Philander and those asked to fill the roles had no solution. Half-an-hour before tea on the second day, England were impregnable, hoping that the pitch would break up along with South African minds.

England had stolen the game on the previous evening with Stokes and Bairstow taking 46 from the first seven overs with the second new ball. Now they did not just keep it, they ravaged it. That assault began from the outset, helped by some ragged South Africa bowling. An initial plan to bowl wide of off stump proved misguided. Ten came from the first over, from Morkel; a hapless over of short and wide stuff from Morris was flayed to the boards three more times. Playing yourself in was for wimps at a time like this. There were pulls and drives galore. It looked a very simple game.

On this sort of pitch, Stokes fancied he could destroy Morris at will. Morris is a T20 specialist, so Stokes dismissed him from his presence as if playing T20. He looked predictable, a bowler operating at a convenient pace. Morkel produced the occasional good ball - but almost exclusively to Bairstow, one thick edge falling drainingly short of the slips. Rabada's latest lesson in Test cricket was a painful one and his short balls lacked venom. By the time Piedt's spin was introduced, 12 overs into the day, Stokes' eye was set.

Stokes was entirely relaxed, the power of his strokeplay leaving South Africa's captain, Hashim Amla, lost for a response. Bairstow offered no release. Misfields crept in and South Africa's pitch map should have been entitled "desperation". The boundaries rained down, one of the best of them a pulled six against Rabada by Stokes that flew out of the ground in the general direction of the brewery, where accountants could celebrate the profits provided by celebrating England fans. About the only ball he pushed at cautiously in the morning was the last ball of the session: playing for lunch, Ben Stokes style.

England had made 196 in 25 overs in the morning, they added 116 in another 13.5 in the afternoon. What plans South Africa had - and they did not have many - were abandoned at the first sight of failure. Bairstow secured his hundred by cutting van Zyl to the fence and his primeval holler of delight, beard bristling, tightly curled and tightly jawed, holding emotions in check as he looked to the heavens, was a moving moment.

From then on, England slogged in the heat, happy to imagine themselves indestructible, Piedt was slow to chase a half chance behind the wicketkeeper as Bairstow top-edged Rabada and Morkel put down a sitter at long off as he same batsman smeared at Morris. It had to end surely, and it did as Rabada had the presence of mind to roll his fingers across the ball and outwit Stokes. England's ginger quota had proved awfully successful.

What followed was very much the undercard, but with Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers still together at the close, and the deficit clipped to 488, South Africa will hope their partnership will swell into something substantial on a third day that should still favour the batting side.

South Africa started hamfistedly when Stiaan van Zyl was run out for 4, sent back by Elgar, and Stokes had enough stardust left to have Elgar caught in the gully off a leading edge, but Joe Root dropped de Villiers, on 5, a waist-high chance at second slip - cue a James Anderson black mood - and Amla logged his first half-century in 11 attempts, courtesy of a neat clip off Stokes that suggested form reawakening. England had plans and South Africa scored at 3.4 an over. Normality was restored.

David Hopps is a general editor at ESPNcricinfo @davidkhopps

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Harmony111 on January 5, 2016, 8:20 GMT

    @MrCricket_Eng:

    Tests too don't test one's skills the same as ODI. A team got to score 350 in 300 balls or DRAW is not an option or you got to be a quick fielder/runner or bowling with a wet ball or you would first field for 50 overs, then be back to open the innings hoping to last another 50 overs. To you a 100 mt sprint is not a big thing but a 5000 mtr race means everything. Both test athletic and human ability skills, some overlapping, some distinct.

    You did not realize? Sehwag was mentioned cos he is typically called a FTB.

    Is spin on day 1 illegal? A spinning track is fine if it offers something for everyone - So Chennai Pitch for 2013 Test is nice, right? Again I ask you, even if it is a dust bowl what is wrong? Why do you think what you like should be the absolute parameter? A dust bowl produces a certain kind of cricket, so what?

    You say all this, then you end your comment by asking for DIFFEREN TYPES OF PITCHES for the sake of exp !!!!

  • Cricinfouser on January 4, 2016, 17:25 GMT

    @mrcricket_eng I'm a fan of all test cricket and follow as much of it as I can.. usually a fan of the underdog (so currently Wi) as it promotes healthy competition if there is a strong pool. Agree with you completely about the heroes of yesteryear. Problem with the Wanderers pitch is that it is used for T20 cricket and little tests these days (alas the decline) and Also SA are going through the warmest and driest year in over 50 years. I believe that batsmen like Lara, Sobers, Bradman eat would have made monstrous scores on the pitches provided for tests these days. That is why we should not so easily forget the records that stood for decades which are tumbling to the pitches, bats and all over decline of the bowler era. That is why I used the Sharma analogy - not to equate test with odi but to equate the statistical anomaly of such an innings by providing context. stokes has heaps of talent and potential (as we always hear about Rohit) but this was not yet his test for greatness

  • MrCricket_Eng on January 4, 2016, 14:00 GMT

    @HARMONY111 One day cricket doesn't test ones skill the same as test cricket but you can't say England is bad because they haven't won a world cup we are talking about test cricket.

    Sehwag as great not sure why bring up Sehwag... As for spinning tracks if it offers something for everyone and not a dust bowl that spins square from day 1 then no issue with them.

    What I don't understand is why countries don't try to produce different types of pitches to give their players the best opportunity to gain experience on all types of tracks.

  • Harmony111 on January 4, 2016, 12:58 GMT

    @MrCricket_Eng:

    I did say that Stokes innings was tremendous, I watched most of it and enjoyed it a great deal so your comment about it being a special 250 is kind of redundant. Undoubtedly Stokes played well, and using this same logic perhaps now you would say Sehwag was not a Flat Track Bully as he got a 100 on Debut in SA. Next, please tell me why One Day Cricket does not count? You may be a Test fan, but why can't someone else be an ODI fan? Is it not a matter of taste? Who decides this?? And pls don't now assume that I am not a Test fan, I love cricket in all its colors. Just in case you argue that Test cricket is REAL cricket as it tests cricketers in various conditions then I hope you would fully support spinning tracks, right? I hope you agree that only unavoidable physical injury risk should be a criterion to call a pitch bad, all else should be ok..

  • MrCricket_Eng on January 4, 2016, 11:46 GMT

    To me it just goes to show how the greats of yesteryear when the played on proper sticky wickets had been so good. Could you imagine Bradman, Hutton et al batting on the pitches today we would be getting scores over 2000

  • Larathegreatest on January 4, 2016, 11:00 GMT

    Look, the innings was very good however no one can ignore the fact that the wicket is a road, the bowling is second rate and average. I remember Rohit Sharma scoring 260 odd in a one dayer not long ago and the same fans who are praising this innings were putting down that innings saying the pitch was a road. You can't have it both ways, a poor pitch is a poor pitch regardless of the fact that the batsman benefitting is from the country you support or not. England fans moaning here that Indian fans are coming on and whining cannot complain, you guys do exactly the same when Indian batsman score runs calling the flat track bully's etc etc. I still remember Kohli scoring 4 centuries in Aus but hardly any non Indian fan gave him any credit.

  • VillageBlacksmith on January 4, 2016, 11:00 GMT

    So stokesys 258 is worthless because no Steyn? I guess ABdV & Amlas soon to be tons also worthless because they got dropped ...?? Btw when Jimmy was injured Broad stepped up @ 8/15 to win the ashes .. Morkel gone totally missing without Steyn

  • TheRipper on January 4, 2016, 10:52 GMT

    @VALAVAN If Root scored a double then it would have taken the headlines as he has just one hundred outside home and that too against the WI. Stokes on the other hand scored one at Perth where Root had to be dropped.

  • curvedrunup on January 4, 2016, 10:47 GMT

    There are instances wherein the batsmen could lull you to sleep in Test matches with their dour batting. What one saw on Sunday at Capetown was entertainment at its best.Stokes and Bairstow displayed some wonderful stroke making and put England in the drivers seat.Strong reply from the Proteas and a wicket or two in the next session should bring back the spring in Englands's step...!!

  • MrCricket_Eng on January 4, 2016, 10:36 GMT

    @MASTERBLASTER100 Will agree there. Something must be done about these pitches. I would prefer to see scores of 250-300 (or less) then 600+. Is it just me? (Could be because I was an opening bowler)

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