Double record break as England avoid defeat in Cape Town

By Ryan Moran

  • England 629-6 dec: Stokes 250, Bairstow 150* & 159-6: Bairstow 30*.
  • South Africa 627-7: Amla 201, Bavuma 102, Broad 2-94.
  • Stokes’ double century the fastest by an England batsman second fastest of all time.

Cape Town, South Africa- Ben Stokes and Temba Bavuma broke individual records as the second test ended in a draw on the final day.

Two long innings by both sides decided the game long before the final day with history made by both sides in the second test. A top order collapse by England could have opened the game up for a last day run chase for South Africa but Jonny Bairstow and Moeen Ali spared the tourists’ blushes.

Alastair Cook and Alex Hales resumed on 16-0, 18 runs ahead of the hosts but found themselves 116-6 as the top four left Bairstow and Moeen the job of playing for the draw. An unbeaten stand of 43 steadied the ship to prevent the opposition a second innings and a chance at claiming victory as England finished on 159-6 because of bad light on the final day.

Cook’s disappointing tour continued as the captain contributed eight runs in the second innings, taking his total to 42 from four innings. Hales fell shortly after, Chris Morris’ diving catch at third slip dismissing the batsman off Morne Morkel, before a third wicket stand of 36 stalled the bowlers’ progress. Root’s run-a-ball 29 was ended as the Yorkshire player was bowled by Morris followed by Nick Compton who failed to beat short mid-on from Dane Piedt’s over, scoring 15 runs while at the crease.

Stokes and James Taylor failed to rebuild the innings and fell quickly after Compton and Root’s departure, Stokes’ sweep shot finding deep mid-wicket off Morkel and Taylor gloving Bavuma. Bairstow and Moeen put the wall up to successfully play out the inevitable draw.

Day five did not live up to the history created in the series at the picturesque venue in Cape Town, with the back drop of Table Mountain and Devil’s Peak the setting for a national record for both sides.

Day one saw England’s openers make a positive start for the first time in the series, Cook and Hales making an unbroken 50 partnership with the former making double figures for the first time in the series. The captain fell shortly after however as Kagiso Rabada, coming in for the injured Dale Steyn, found the edge of Cook’s bat and Morris dived to take the catch leaving England 55-1. Hales’ improved performance took the opener to his first half century in test cricket, ten runs later a Morkel delivery seamed away clipping Hales’ bat on the way through into the hands of AB De Villiers, leaving the tourists’ 129-2.

Compton’s consistency with the bat continued as he fell five short of a 50, caught by Bavuma to become Rabada’s second victim before tea. The South African bowler took successive wickets, James Taylor edging behind on his first delivery. Entering the fray, Stokes, England’s soon to be record holder. A reliable middle order started to stutter, Root and Stokes set about producing a score the bowling attack could protect. Root was twice let off the hook, Morris failing to reach the bounce and a nick off a bouncer didn’t carry to De Villiers on the dive.

A 56 partnership followed only for the third time to be unlucky for Root, caught behind off Morris. Bairstow joined Stokes and with Hashim Amla using the less tried and trusted bowlers, the pair started to punish the more regular loose delivery from Stiaan Van Zyl and Dean Elgar before the second new ball was used. Scoring at five runs an over, Stokes and Bairstow ended with an unbroken partnership of 94 to resume on day two.

Stokes and Bairstow attacked the second day in the same way the pair finished day one as Bairstow scored his maiden test century and Stokes was finally run out for 258. England added 312 in 39 overs, declaring on 629-6, South Africa started the chase making 141-2 in preparation for day three.

Stokes surpassed the record previously set by Ian Botham, who made 200 runs in 220 balls, the Durham all-rounder making 200 in 163 balls. The new record holder ranks second in the international rankings, Nathan Astle of New Zealand making the double century mark 10 balls faster. Stokes’ eventual departure came about as the batsman hit directly at De Villiers, catching opportunity missed but the batsman made up with a direct hit.

South Africa made a poor start with Van Zyl being sent back by Elgar as the opener tried to take a single, Compton running the batsman out for four runs. The pair of Elgar and Amla dug in to the England attack with James Anderson returning, missing the first test with a calf injury. With most bowling options exhausted, double centurion Stokes joined the bowling attack and made the breakthrough, Compton again involved diving to catch Elgar off Stokes.

De Villiers joined captain Amla at the crease 544 runs behind the tourists with the former wicketkeeper relieved to have seen Root drop him on five. As confidence grew, so did the Proteas’ score, Amla unbeaten on 64 and De Villiers unbeaten on 25.

Day three saw the hosts bat for the whole day, Amla a main stay at the crease for the whole day, De Villiers the only casualty, with the captain’s lives increasing as the day went on. Dropped on 76 and 120, the South African punished England for the dropped catches and frustrated the bowlers. In contrast to Stokes, Amla was patient in bat, focussed on making the opposition pay for missed chances. With De Villiers beaten by Steven Finn, Faf Du Plessis joined Amla at the crease to push closer to England’s total at 268-3.

439 runs on the board, wickets started to fall, Amla finally beaten, Broad taking the prized wicket, bowling the captain. Without another run on the board, Anderson kept up with Broad as Du Plessis found Stokes to leave the field for 86. Quinton De Kock followed soon after for Bavuma and Morris to kick on from 449-6.

The second record of the test was made on the penultimate day as Bavuma cruised to his century, the first South African black player to make a century in test cricket. The bowler was dropped on 77 by Bairstow but recovered to make it to the century mark.

Eight dropped catches spelt the problem out for England, Amla was dropped on 76, 125 runs short of his eventual departure, De Villiers dropped on five, 83 short of his final score of 88. Those were the costliest drops for England as all drops accounted for an extra 305 runs. The eventual declaration was a defeat for the tourists in the sense that had those catches been taken, momentum and confidence would have put England on the front foot and on course for a second successive win. The resultant score of 627-7 declared, two runs behind the tourists’ score essentially killed the game with 16 runs on the board going into the final day.

Cook spoke openly about the missed chances, speaking to the BBC after the draw in Cape Town:

“If we’d taken those chances in the field I think we’d be talking about a different game.”

“Some were very difficult, maybe 10%. Others, we’d expect to take. You can’t put down seven or eight chances, so we’ll work hard in training after a couple of days off. These things happen. No-one plays a perfect game and no-one expects to drop a catch.”

After the game Amla stepped down as captain of the national team with De Villiers taking charge for the final two games in this test series. The decision was taken by the former captain to focus on his own game.

Johannesburg hosts England against South Africa for the third test of a four match series finely poised at 1-0 to the tourists.

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