England survive wobble to make South Africa toil late on

Ben Stokes and Jonny Bairstow stage dashing recovery on roasting day in Cape Town

First Test Day one: England 317-5 (England win toss and bat first)

Ben Stokes unleashed some powerful late hitting as England ended day one of the second Test against South Africa in a strong position.

The all-rounder arrived at the crease in Cape Town with his side on 167 for four and in danger of throwing away a promising position, but by stumps he had transformed the game with an unbeaten 74 in 91 balls.

Stokes, batting with the kind of verve and magnetism that makes him such a danger at number six, dominated the final hour to lead the tourists to 317 for five, the foundations of big first-innings total.


Stokes was particularly effective against the second new ball, flogging debutant Chris Morris with abandon in an unbroken 94-run stand with the fluent Jonny Bairstow.

England had needed something substantial from the pair after each of their top four got out between 27 and 60, and they duly obliged.

Exactly fifty of Stokes’ runs came in boundaries, 11 fours and a six, with Bairstow making 39no in 59 balls in the supporting role.

After winning the toss England captain Alastair Cook had no hesitations in batting first, with cloudless blue skies overhead and more than 10,000 travelling fans supporting from the stands.

The absence of Dale Steyn and Kyle Abbott from the home attack, replaced by 20-year-old Kagiso Rabada and Morris, was also a factor.

James Anderson, replacing Chris Woakes after passing a fitness test, was also able to bank another day of rest on his troublesome calf.

The early signs suggested Cook’s call was sound, with plenty of bounce and carry in the pitch but precious little sideways movement.

Morne Morkel began tightly but Rabada and Morris were both guilty of losing their line.

That allowed Alex Hales and Cook to keep the scoreboard moving with low-risk runs in the arc between fine-leg and midwicket.

It required something special to get South Africa going and, when Cook (27) squirted a low chance towards third slip, Morris provided it.

The ball went fast and kept low but the fielder fell to his left and clung to a superb one-handed catch.

England’s lunch score of 76 for one still represented a strong platform and they set about upping the stakes as soon as play resumed.

Hales had a large slice of luck to go with his newfound intent, seeing three edges in a row off Rabada disappear for four beyond the slip cordon.

The third of those brought up a maiden half-century in his third Test innings.

Compton, having scored three from 32 balls in the morning, then set about Dane Piedt, paddle-sweeping for four then cracking a sweet six over long-on.

After a lengthy breather Morkel returned to see off Hales, feeling for the ball outside off to depart for 60.

Joe Root had an escape on 13, Morris putting down a chance at least as hard as his earlier take, and might also have gone for 23.

This time he went to pull Rabada, aborted and ran the ball into the air off the face of the bat.

It landed safe — just — but South Africa’s disappointment was soothed when Rabada took wickets with successive balls either side of tea.

Compton, having played with such diligence in Durban, went after a short one with uncharacteristic eagerness and succeeded only in picking out midwicket.

James Taylor then flashed hard at the first ball of the evening — and first of his innings — leaving a simple catch for Quinton de Kock.

Root and Stokes responded to those setbacks by adding 56 runs at better than 4.5 per over, but just as they threatened to take the game away the Proteas struck again.

Root had just reached 50 when he played away from his body and feathered through to De Kock for Morris' maiden Test wicket.

For a batsman eager to convert more half-centuries into full ones, this was a familiar but frustrating start to 2016.

As South Africa celebrated there was an unmistakable feeling that England were busy throwing away a glorious opportunity.

But Stokes and Bairstow safely negotiated the next 12 overs, adding 48 runs as Hashim Amla relied on fill-in overs from Stiaan van Zyl and Dean Elgar.

The arrival of the new ball looked set to define the day and it was Stokes who seized the moment.

He hit four boundaries in the first over after the change, three of which were clean, powerful strikes and one an edge through third man.

Yet he was undeterred, throwing the bat at anything wide or short.

Bairstow played a neat supporting act, more than enough given Stokes’ histrionics, as the pair put on 46 in the last seven overs.