PORT ELIZABETH: Ben Stokes and Ollie Pope both scored centuries as England took a firm grip on the third test against South Africa, advancing to 426 runs for eight wickets at tea on the second day at St George’s Park on Friday.
Just two days after being named the world’s best cricketer, Stokes underlined his talismanic role for England with a typically flourishing century, accelerating the run rate after the tourists’ were 224-4 overnight.
The 22-year-old Pope was even quicker to his 50 in the morning session but more circumspect after lunch before making a maiden ton to underline his potential.
Stokes scored 120 before being caught off the bowling of Dane Paterson, while Pope was 106 not out at tea.
The England pair came out after rain delayed the start of play by 45 minutes, with clear intent and quickly moved past 50 runs each, eventually putting on 203 runs for the fifth wicket.
Stokes’ century came off 174 balls, in the process passing 4,000 runs and becoming only the seventh test cricketer to reach that figure and take 100 wickets, achieving the milestone in fewer tests than England great Ian Botham.
Pope survived scares — when he was given out lbw on 75, but successfully reviewed, and again on 84 with an attempted stumping — before reaching his ton off 190 balls just before tea.
South African debutant Paterson got the prized wicket of Stokes, his a maiden test victim, as Dean Elgar caught him at cover point.
Pope then put on 59 runs with 21-year-old Sam Curran, who bashed his way to 44 off only 50 balls before being caught in the deep to hand Keshav Maharaj the third wicket.
The spinner then had Dom Bess caught at silly point.
Jos Buttler was the other wicket to fall, scoring just one before chipping the ball back to Maharaj.
It was another grinding day in the field for the hosts, who began the day with the demoralizing news that top bowler Kagiso Rabada would be suspended for the last test of the series.
Rabada was given another demerit point for robustly celebrating the wicket of England captain Joe Root on Thursday, running down the pitch, going down on his haunches, clenching his fists and roaring into the ground.
The bowler, who has accumulated four demerit points in a 24-month period, was also fined 15% of his match fee by the International Cricket Council and cannot play in the fourth test in Johannesburg, which starts on Jan. 24.