England hammers South Africa team already hit by Rabada ban
PORT ELIZABETH — Ben Stokes and Ollie Pope made centuries to hammer a South Africa team already hit by a ban for its top bowler as England took control on a potentially decisive day of the test series on Friday.
Stokes made 120 on the second day of the third test in Port Elizabeth, Pope was 106 not out for his maiden test century, and England surged to 426-8 in its first innings by tea.
The tourists, with star allrounder Stokes leading the charge once again, were building a commanding position in the match and series, which was level at 1-1.
South Africa was slipping behind and burdened by the additional blow of
Rabada's ban was announced on Friday morning, a punishment for his provocative celebration in the face of England captain Joe Root on the first day of the test at St. George's Park.
With that news hanging over them, the South Africans appeared completely deflated on the field and Stokes and Pope took full advantage on a pitch that's pretty tough for bowlers anyway. The four-test series was finely balanced but the first two sessions of the second day and the off-field news regarding Rabada meant it appeared to be swinging heavily in England's favor.
Stokes and Pope took their careful 76-run partnership overnight to an unbroken and flourishing stand of 187 by lunch. They put on a mammoth 203 for the fifth wicket by the time Stokes hit a square drive to be caught by Dean Elgar after lunch and give Dane Paterson a first test wicket on his debut for South Africa.
On a day when the start of play was delayed by nearly an hour because of rain, the outlook for South Africa was particularly gloomy.
Stokes broke free. The left-hander, voted the world player of the year this week, played cautiously at the end of the first day to consolidate England's promising position but was in complete attack mode on day two.
He lashed 12 fours and two sixes in all as he charged to a ninth test century. Three of those hundreds have come in the last five months and Stokes continued to punish South Africa on this tour. He blitzed 72 off 47 balls, took a record-equaling five catches in an innings, and collected the match-winning wickets in England's series-tying victory in the second test in Cape Town.
Stokes also had strong support from Pope in Port Elizabeth and Sam Curran added 44 down the order in a half-century stand with Pope to keep England rolling on.
England's 426-8 was the third highest total ever by a visiting team in a test at St. George's and closing in on England's record of 435 in Port Elizabeth. Other than that, only Australia in 1950 has made a bigger statement at the ground by a touring team.
England, 224-4 overnight, added 111 runs in first session, another 91 after lunch, and was rampant by scoring 202 in two sessions on what's notably a flat, lifeless pitch for the fast bowlers.
Rabada, who was South Africa's best bowler on the first day, took no wickets on the second, leaving left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj to lead the struggling and dispirited home attack with 4-135.