Ben Stokes struck a sparkling unbeaten 74 to help England finish the opening day of the second Test against South Africa on a healthy 317 for five at Newlands yesterday.
Stokes top-scored for the touring side with Alex Hales and Joe Root also contributing half-centuries and Jonny Bairstow ending on 39 not out in an unbroken sixth-wicket partnership of 94.
Stokes took to the tiring South African bowling in the last hour of a hot day, seeing off the threat of the new ball with a cavalier approach that gave the advantage to England who lead the four-test series 1-0.
Hales, in his second Test, was out for 60 to a sharp catch from AB de Villiers in the slips after getting an edge to a lifting ball from Morne Morkel.
His patient innings off 140 balls should, however, allow him more time to cement a regular role as captain Alastair Cook’s opening partner.
Root made 50 before giving debutant Chris Morris his first test wicket when he nibbled at a ball and was caught behind by wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock.
Nick Compton was five runs short of his 50 when he pulled to midwicket and was caught by Temba Bavuma off the bowing of Kagiso Rabada with the last ball before tea. The 20-year-old Rabada, replacing the injured Dale Steyn, took two wickets in as many balls either side of the interval.
James Taylor fell straight after tea playing a big drive to a wide ball to be caught behind for a golden duck. The first England wicket to fall was Cook who fell to a stunning one-handed catch at third slip by Morris for 27 off the bowling of Rabada.
Cook, who won the toss, and Hales shared a 55-run partnership, the first 50-run open partnership in the last eight English test innings.
South Africa’s bowlers all took a pounding with Rabada’s figures of 3-74 the best. Debutant Morris finished with 1-99 off 20 overs as the absence of Steyn, Vernon Philander and Kyle Abbott was felt by the home team.
“It was a great finish for us,” said Hales. “The second new ball was going to be a key period for us and the way Stokesy and Jonny attacked them and took the game to them has probably given us the upper hand. It was evenly poised going into about the 70th over.” Hales said Stokes was the sort of player who got his teammates excited. “Stokesy is a maverick player. All the bowlers snoozing on the physio bed come out to watch him play.” Rabada said bowling conditions had been tough. “It’s a good cricketing wicket but the margin for error is small. I haven’t been match bowling fit so it was a bit of a fight out there - but it went okay.”
England’s batsman Benjamin Stokes (C) plays a shot during the day one of the second Test against South Africa at Newlands stadium in Cape Town yesterday. (AFP)