|Third test, Port Elizabeth, (day two of five):|
|England 499-9 stated: Pope 135 *, Stokes 120; Maharaj 5-180|
|South Africa 60-2: Bess 2-12|
|South Africa trail for 439 races|
Ollie Pope gave the first of what will surely be many centuries of testing and Ben Stokes broke hundreds of his own to put England in a dominant position on the second day of the third Test against South Africa in Port Elizabeth.
Pope dazzled by 135 not out, at 22 and 15 days becoming the youngest player to do an inaugural Test 100 for England since Alastair Cook in 2006.
Stokes continued his stellar form for 120 to take tourists to 499-9 declared, the first time England has made more than 400 batting first in more than two years.
The fifth wicket couple extended their association overnight to 203, crushing the spirit of the South African attack.
Sam Curran and Mark Wood took advantage, Curran added a windy 44 and Wood went to 42 from just 23 deliveries, including five six.
After England declared, Dom Bess, who did not play roulette, took advantage of the turn offer, eliminating Pieter Malan and Zubayr Hamza to leave Proteas 60-2, 439 behind.
The bad light and the rain closed with eight remaining overs, denying England the opportunity to make more raids, but they still have a golden opportunity to climb 2-1 with a Test to play.
Even with the surface that is still good for batting, England has the advantage of marker pressure and Wood’s weapon, which cast a fire spell greater than 90 mph in its first test for 11 months.
Rampant Day puts England in charge
If the first day of this match was even, fluctuating and intriguing, the second day was a challenge from England towards total control.
On Thursday, scoring in the race seemed complicated in a sleepy field, perhaps because South Africa’s bowlers scolded and house captain Faf du Plessis was cunning.
On Friday, England shook with almost 4.5 runs and more. Maybe it was because the surface had gained some rhythm, or because South Africa was mediocre. Mainly, it was because of the brilliance of Pope and Stokes.
They built on the platform set the first night, when England closed on 224-4 and its position was at 76. In the morning, Stokes made his way to three figures. Later, after Pope made his way to the maiden, he unleashed some scandalous blows.
When Kagiso Rabada, banned for the final test, he thought he had caught Wood, England declared. When the reps revealed that Rabada had surpassed, England captain Joe Root changed his mind and England continued to add 23 more runs. The farce summed up the day of South Africa.
After such a punishing time in the field, it is for the credit of the starters Malan and Dean Elgar that they fought to add 50 for the first wicket, only for Bess to hit in the dim light.
First, Malan shot the bowler again, then Hamza approached Pope with his short leg.
Pope keeps promise
Even if Pope’s first attempt at test cricket, two games against India in 2018, was unsuccessful, the volume of runs he scored for Surrey suggested he was well equipped to perform at the highest level.
His classy punching game makes comparisons with former England batter Ian Bell, but Pope also has the tricks of a player educated in the Twenty20 era.
Resuming at 39, he was initially on Stokes’ slide track, although he was still playing records and cutting sideways. Later, when Curran was scoring freely, Pope’s progression toward a hundred was thorough.
He nullified Dane Paterson from giving lbw in 74 and narrowly avoided running out of 76, when Rabada failed shyly on the stumps.
When Pope cut Anrich Nortje in mid-wicket for four, he brought a first hundred in his sixth test and caused a spectacular ramp, pickup and recoil of fast players.
When England declared that Pope’s first-class average was 61.14, a mark surpassed by only nine other men in the game’s history.
Excellent Stokes does it again
Stokes’ list of achievements currently seems to grow every time he goes on the field. The World Cup and Headingley in 2019, the player of the year of the International Cricket Council, already inspired England to victory in Cape Town in 2020.
On Thursday night I was happy to leave the entertainment to the Pope, but on Friday, after 38, he went to South Africa’s bowling.
Stokes splashed the middle limit of the wicket, either by pulling the fast bowlers or sweeping the Keshav Maharaj roulette, one of the two six of the left armer left the ground.
Arriving at three figures, Stokes held a gesture with his hand to his father Ged, who remains in a hospital in Johannesburg after getting sick before Christmas.
After lunch, South Africa found a way to frustrate Stokes, who drove to show Paterson his first test wicket.
By then, he had already become England’s second player, after Ian Botham, to double 4,000 tests and 100 wickets.
‘A day you dream like a child’
English batter Ollie Pope told BBC Sport: “It was an incredible day, a day you dream of when you were a child. The two things you dream of are making your debut in England and as a hitter to score a hundred for your country. I can’t describe the feeling right now. But definitely it’s a good one.
“You can always imagine it, but a few years ago you never expect it to happen. To do it today was as good as I could have imagined. I couldn’t get my smile off my face. I hope it’s the first of many.
“It’s going to be a tough graft, but it was exciting to see the way the ball spun at the end and Woody bowling at 150 km / h. It’s going to be hard work, but we’ve shown some good signs tonight.”
Former England batter Vikram Solanki and assistant coach of Surrey in The Cricket Social: “Ollie Pope makes good decisions. He reflects on mistakes, is honest with himself and works very hard in his game. He gets some experience from any experienced player, and uses it as a knowledge bank.”
BBC cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew: “England is way ahead of the game. South Africa is in trouble. As long as it does not rain too much in the next three days, it will be colder, there will be clouds and there will be much more friendship. Bowling conditions.”
Former England bowler Graham Onions: “I don’t think Faf du Plessis had a particularly good day. But if the players don’t execute their plans, there’s not much you can do. It’s almost been a role change for Joe Root.”