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Stokes seizes advantage against South Africa

England surges ahead in final half-hour against new ball, to end first day of second Test on 317 for 5

Stokes seizes advantage against South Africa - Cricket News
Seven hours of good work by South Africa’s inexperienced attack was undone in the space of 30 minutes as Ben Stokes and Jonny Bairstow gave England the advantage on the first day of the second Test at Newlands.
 
After battling hard to restrict England to 271 for 5 from 80 overs on a beautiful surface, South Africa gained the second new ball but lost momentum. The next six overs brought 46 runs in a series of bold batting strokes, allowing England to close day on 317 for 5 on Saturday (January 2).
 
England’s day up until that point was a series of missed opportunities after it had won the toss and elected to bat, with all but one of the batsmen making a start but nobody going on to make the convincing score that the pitch deserved. There was a hint of a wobble for the fast bowlers but little conventional swing, and the ball came on true.
 
Nick Compton (45) and Joe Root (50) were well set, but failed to kick on, leaving Stokes to make up. He closed the day unbeaten on 74 from just 93 deliveries in an unbroken partnership of 94 with Bairstow (39 not out), having done the majority of the damage in a mad last half-hour.


 
When England eased to 55 without loss and then 129 for 1 against a South African side with three changes, the visiting side had an excellent chance to maintain its dominance in the four-match series. Quinton de Kock had come in for JP Duminy, while Dale Steyn and Kyle Abbott were left out due to injury as Kagiso Rabada and debutant Chris Morris were brought in.
 
However South Africa’s attack bounced back to nullify England’s solid start, with Rabada claiming three wickets - including two in two balls either side of the tea break. When Root had a nibble at a Morris delivery and was caught behind, England was 223 for 5 and South Africa should have had the advantage. But the home side let the game drift away until the second new ball, and then found England pulling away.
 
Rabada bowled as you’d expect a 20-year-old tearaway might: fast, a bit woolly, and generally quite dangerous. There were four no-balls and a couple of wides, and an economy rate that hovered around four per over showed that there were plenty of poor deliveries for England to feast on. But his pace troubled the batsmen consistently and he made the first breakthrough of the day when Alastair Cook edged to third slip, where Morris took a one-handed blinder low down to his left.

England reached the lunch break on 76 for 1, and there was the first glimpse of South Africa’s nervousness soon after. With the raw Rabada offering the odd wide delivery, third slip was moved to third man, and later in the over Alex Hales edged through the third slip region to go to his first Test fifty.
 
Morkel grabbed the wicket that South Africa needed when he had Hales well caught at second slip by AB de Villiers, and then another patient Compton innings ended with a soft dismissal - this time as he pulled Rabada straight to midwicket. When James Taylor was caught behind off the first ball after tea things were stirring, but the South African side lost momentum thereafter.
 
Morris was given the second new ball, but saw a decent inswinger driven beautifully down the ground by Stokes, and a sharp lifter edged over second slip. That come with the territory of new-ball bowling, especially when bowlers are searching for wickets against batsmen such as Stokes who are inclined to attack, but South Africa went on the defensive. By the 85th over, there was onlyone slip in place to Stokes and five men on the boundary.
 
The game is not gone yet but it will be a long way back for South Africa given the runs already on the board and the disappointment of how the last 30 minutes got away from the side. Another test will come when the batsmen strap the pads on - particularly with James Anderson restored to the English attack in place of Chris Woakes.
 
South Africa's batting line-up could not have asked for a better surface on which to bat itself back into form, but it’s harder to play with freedom when the opposition have put up an imposing score. And with high temperatures and extreme dryness the pitch is likely to deteriorate, and so first-innings runs will be crucial.

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