Stokes the hero yet again as England battle past defiant South Africa to level series
Ben Stokes bowled England to an epic fifth-day victory in the second Test at Cape Town, edging a compelling battle of wills with a defiant South Africa.
Stokes claimed the last three wickets in the space of 14 deliveries deep into the concluding session of the match as England wrapped up a 189-run win.
Not only was it a first success for England at the famous Newlands ground since 1957, it was also an outstanding advert for the long-form story-telling that is five-day Test cricket – a format at this very moment in danger of being curtailed by administrators.
And while it may not yet exactly be at the forefront of everyone’s minds, the 30 World Test Championship points England collect takes them up to third in that table behind runaway top two India and Australia.
Starting the day chasing eight wickets to square the series at 1-1, Joe Root’s side still needed five after tea as the Proteas dug deep on a passive surface.
At various stages it seemed a doomed pursuit in sapping heat, but the tourists rallied triumphantly at the death with Stokes blowing away Dwaine Pretorius and Anrich Nortje with consecutive balls, then dismissing Vernon Philander with 8.2 overs remaining.
Allied to his six catches at second slip – a joint England record among non-wicketkeepers – and the swashbuckling 72 which allowed England to declare and bought precious time in the final innings, and this completed yet another remarkable chapter for the sport’s hero of the hour.
South Africa had performed with admirable determination, Pieter Malan, Rassive van der Dussen and Quinton de Kock grinding out 342 deliveries between them on the day, but England matched their labours and held their catches.
After 137.4 overs in the dirt the celebrations – Chris Silverwood’s first as head coach – will taste all the sweeter. As for South Africa, they will rue abject lapses from captain Faf du Plessis and De Kock, who both conjured unprovoked dismissals to undermine the home cause.
James Anderson ended the day stiff, sore and seemingly carrying a niggle but started well by trapping nightwatchman Keshav Maharaj plumb in front.
For almost 18 overs Malan and Du Plessis successfully killed the momentum, Malan habitually leaving the ball unless it demanded attention and Du Plessis, who has plenty of fifth-day pedigree, appearing ready for a long rearguard. Then a gift.
After nudging 19 from 56 deliveries the skipper shed all of his prior inhibitions as he knelt to sweep Dom Bess into the legside. Runs were essentially a non-factor with a distant theoretical target of 438 and Bess had caused precious few problems on a pitch offering only the most gentle turn.
Yet Du Plessis planted his ill-fitting shot straight to Joe Denly at square leg. England were delighted, surprised and relieved in equal share – not least Denly, taking his first catch since his jaw-dropping spill two Tests ago in Hamilton.
With spirits revived by a lunch total of 170 for four, Root’s decision to resume with Sam Curran paid off as the left-armer slanted one across Malan, finding some extra bounce and clipping the edge. Stokes held on low, concluding a brave stand comprising 84 runs and, more importantly, 231 balls.
Optimism spiked again but was gradually extinguished as Van der Dussen and De Kock chewed through another 169 deliveries before tea, taking the game to its final chapter.
With Anderson ailing Root invested heavily in spin, primarily in the form of 33 overs from Bess, but also in Denly’s leg-breaks and his own occasional offerings.
England needed inspiration or aberration and neither seemed to be forthcoming. Anderson, by now clearly unfit, managed two overs at the start of the final session – willing but ultimately unable to offer any more to the cause.
With the field crowding in, occupying a variety of unusual positions, De Kock cashed in on the gaps to reach 50. Perhaps sensing more cheap runs he swung hard at a Denly long-hop, ignoring more conservative measures, and picked out Zak Crawley at short midwicket.
Once again a mistake had changed the equation, leaving 25.2 overs to sweep up four remaining wickets. England burned five more of them before Root shuffled Anderson up from mid-on to leg-slip and drew instant reward.
Broad bowled perfectly to the new plan, sliding one towards leg stump, and van der Dussen unbelievably obliged as he fed the new fielder. After 17 runs and three and a quarter hours, his resistance was over.
If it weren't for football, Zak Crawley wouldn't have played and therefore couldn't have taken that catch. So really warm-up football won that Test for England.
Those are facts.
— King Cricket (@TheKingsTweets) January 7, 2020
England had 20 overs to take three wickets and Stokes – hammering in relentlessly from the Wynberg End – obliged. First Pretorius offered his outside edge and Root closed his fingers round a tricky low catch, then Nortje was dramatically held at third slip by Crawley.
Parrying with one hand and plucking the falling ball with the other, he was smothered by the rest of a crowded cordon. There would be no hat-trick, but it had to be Stokes who applied the finishing touch, Philander prodding to Ollie Pope to conclude the drama.
On This Day in 2010: England beat Australia to win ICC World Twenty20 title
Craig Kieswetter (63) and Kevin Pietersen (47) led the charge to a victory which came with three full overs to spare.
England handed injury scare after Jofra Archer was unable to bowl for Sussex
The 26-year-old did not bowl during day three of his side’s LV= Insurance County Championship match with Kent due to a sore elbow.
Keith Barker stars as Hampshire beat Middlesex by seven wickets
Barker returned an impressive 84 in the first innings, his highest score for the county.
Dan Lawrence leads Essex onslaught against Derbyshire
The hosts were in a hurry after a first day washout at Chelmsford.
England likely to do without IPL contingent for New Zealand Test series
The players returning from India will come out of quarantine less than a fortnight before the Lord’s opener.
Rachael Haynes withdraws from The Hundred due to coronavirus restrictions
Australia’s Haynes was one of the star overseas signings for the inaugural edition of the 100-ball competition.
Former England seamer Harry Gurney retires from cricket due to shoulder injury
The 34-year-old left-armer has been unable to recovery sufficiently from a shoulder injury.
Richard Gould leaving Surrey to become Bristol City chief executive
Gould was commercial director at Ashton Gate between 2001 and 2005.
Jofra Archer takes two wickets on return in Sussex clash with Kent
Archer has been out with finger and elbow issues.
Jofra Archer to step up injury return in Sussex’s Championship game with Kent
Archer’s last first-class appearance for the county came in the 2018 season.