Cape Town: Ben Stokes unleashed a flurry of attacking strokes late in the afternoon to give England the edge on the first day of the second Test against South Africa at Newlands on Saturday.
England's Benjamin Stokes celebrates his 50 against South Africa on Saturday. Pic/AFP
England were 317 for five at the close, with the left-handed Stokes on 74 not out. An injury-depleted South African bowling attack, spearheaded by Kagiso Rabada, kept England in check for much of a hot, cloudless day on a batsman-friendly pitch.
Rabada, 20, playing in his first home Test, took three for 74. The match seemed evenly poised when Joe Root was dismissed for 50 by new cap Chris Morris. But Stokes and Jonny Bairstow (39 not out) put on an unbeaten 94 for the sixth wicket.
Stokes was particularly aggressive against the second new ball, hitting the first two deliveries from Morris for fours to post a 70-ball half-century. He hit two more fours and a single in the same over. By the close he had faced 93 balls and hit 11 fours and a six. "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." England opener Alex Hales, who made 60 and shared two half-century partnerships at the start of the day, was impressed by Rabada.
"He bowled really well. His first spell had really good pace and control. He's an attacking bowler who looks to bring the edges into play and he has a quick bouncer. He's got all the tools to be world-class." 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." But Rabada said he was comfortable having to play a senior role, with Morne Morkel being the only specialist bowler who had played in more than three Tests.
"I don't feel any pressure at all," he said. "It's an opportunity to go and play, so I am going to try to make the most of it." Hales and Root hit half-centuries, while Nick Compton made 45 after England won the toss and made first use of a pitch with good bounce but minimal sideways movement.
Hales, playing in his second Test match, hit 60 -- his maiden Test half-century -- and shared stands of 55 with opening partner Alastair Cook and 74 for the second wicket with Compton. Cook made 27 before edging Rabada low to third slip where Morris dived far to his left and held the ball centimetres above the ground.
Compton was out in the last over before tea when he pulled a ball from Rabada and was well caught by a diving Temba Bavuma at midwicket. Rabada made it two wickets in two balls when he dismissed James Taylor with the first ball after tea but Root and Stokes put on 56 for the fifth wicket before Morris claimed his first wicket in Test cricket when Root edged an attempted cut to wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock.
Fast bowlers Rabada and Morris were playing in place of Dale Steyn and Kyle Abbott, who suffered shoulder and hamstring injuries respectively during South Africa's 241-run defeat in the first Test in Durban. Rabada and off-spinner Dane Piedt were both playing in their fourth Test match, leaving Morkel, in his 69th Test, as the only experienced member of the South African bowling attack.