South Africa vs England: 2nd Test, day two

The praise and the superlatives to describe Ben Stokes innings and his partnership with Jonny Bairstow will come thick and fast over the next 24 hours, and probably beyond.  And rightly so too, for anyone who witnessed the murderous assault on South Africa’s bowling this morning was privileged to watch something exceptional.

Firstly though, let’s take the match position.  England’s mammoth 629-6 declared is clearly insurance against defeat, so South Africa are playing for the rest of the game to try and save it.  They’ve done well to reach 141-2 by the close, and the pitch is showing no signs of deterioration at this stage.  First innings runs are therefore key in currently very benign conditions, for the first target has to be to reach 430 to avoid the follow on.  The rate of England’s scoring has opened up their options, in that South Africa will need to bat for at least another day and a half in order to make the game reasonably safe, and flat surface or not, that is going to be a challenge.   It could have been a bigger one, had Joe Root not shelled a fairly straightforward chance at slip to dismiss AB De Villiers off James Anderson.  If taken, South Africa would have been in dire straits.

As it is, with Hashim Amla recovering some form and with De Villiers granted a life, this pair will need to bat long into tomorrow to protect what looks a flakey lower order.  They couldn’t ask for a better pitch on which to do so, as while scoreboard pressure brings its own issues, in the purest terms there’s no reason why South Africa shouldn’t be able to save the game.  Avoiding silly run outs would help.

That is for tomorrow, for now it is about two players who played in differing manners most of the time.  Stokes carried on from where he left off last night, which is all very well except he carried on for a session and a half.  This was T20 brought into Test cricket.  On many occasions we see a player do this for short periods, it is extremely rare for it to continue and continue and continue.

The records tumbled, as the pair added a scarcely credible 399 in just 59 overs, with the two (since Moeen was 0 not out without facing, it is the two) belting 312 off 38.5 overs.  To put that into context, if that was an ODI, there would be a chance of them overhauling the world record total.   They were scoring faster than was happening in the Big Bash match on the next channel.

For the record Stokes double century was the fastest ever by an Englishman, beating Ian Botham’s 208 ball knock against India, and second only to Nathan Astle’s 153 ball effort at Christchurch.  It could be argued that particular innings was an outlier, given it was on a drop in pitch, but records are records.  It is the fastest ever 250 in Tests; the 130 scored in the morning the highest in Test history for a first session; the most sixes (11) by an England batsman ever, and joint second globally; the highest run rate in any partnership of 200 or more runs in Test history; the highest sixth wicket partnership in Test history….oh the hell with it.  Go and have a read of all of them:

Of course statistics are one thing, actually witnessing the innings is another.  Stokes has a delightfully simple technique, trigger movements are minimal and there isn’t much to go wrong with it.   The bat comes down straight, the footwork is decent enough.  What that means is that when he is in a mood like this he is going to strike the ball very cleanly. Given how he batted, that seems obvious, but he retains his body shape when going after the bowling.  There was only one occasion where there was a slightly wild swing and a miss, for the rest of the time, even if he mistimed it a touch it was recognisably a cricket shot – at no point did it descend into slogging.  Instead it was simply awesome power, one shot that went out of the ground will live long in the memory.

While Stokes will be the inevitable focus, Jonny Bairstow’s innings was in its own way equally majestic.  He was entirely content to play the supporting role while Stokes was causing mayhem, yet his own innings was anything but laggardly, and he went from 100 to 150 in the blink of an eye.  It says much for Stokes’ awesome innings that a player can score 150 and not be the main focus.

Yet it wouldn’t just have been Bairstow who had a tear in his eye when he reached his maiden Test century.  The celebration said everything there is to say, it was a special moment.

Days like this don’t come along too often, not just the run scoring feats but the manner and sheer bravado in how it was done.   This is the sort of day that gets kids interested, because they want to be the next Ben Stokes.  And God knows English cricket could do with some of that right now.  Stokes announced himself to Australia in the last Ashes down under, and today he announced himself to the world. It was a reminder of why we love the game, a nudge that despite all the issues with governance, the ICC and ECB, the purity of two players having the time of their lives is something that can’t be taken away from anyone.  South Africa’s bowlers, especially poor Chris Morris who took the brunt of the battering, may beg to differ.

And then Stokes went and bagged himself a wicket as well.  Bloody hell.

Day three discussion here. 


44 thoughts on “South Africa vs England: 2nd Test, day two

  1. alecpaton Jan 3, 2016 / 6:55 pm

    I love Ben Stokes a lot (see my comment from earlier today on the earlier post) but it was Bairstow’s ton that struck a chord for me. There is an awful lot said and written about his primal roar and his father but it could just as easily be a player stamping himself on the game and making his position in the team safe since he first played for England in 2011.

    Liked by 1 person

    • alecpaton Jan 3, 2016 / 7:01 pm

      Also, his average against South Africa is a scarcely believable 104.75.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. SimonH Jan 3, 2016 / 8:23 pm

    “It could be argued that particular innings was an outlier, given it was on a drop in pitch”.

    It could be argued – by someone who was very, very silly.

    By the way, Astle made his runs off Caddick, Hoggard, Flintoff and Giles – an attack with a combined 850+ Test wickets between them. Not an all-time great attack perhaps, but a pretty decent one.


  3. MM Jan 3, 2016 / 11:16 pm

    Loved it. It was great radio. Well done Stokes and Bairstow.


    • pktroll (@pktroll) Jan 4, 2016 / 9:53 am

      I know it is only the metro (a paper for those commuters who live in or near big cities) but Stokes gets a mention on the front page and he pretty much has the back 3 pages of the rag to himself!


  4. MM Jan 3, 2016 / 11:19 pm

    Just wondering and I know some of you guys are wizards at this… which was Stokes’ fastest 50 and how many balls did it come off?


    • SimonH Jan 3, 2016 / 11:34 pm

      150-200 in 28 balls by my reckoning.


      • MM Jan 4, 2016 / 6:27 pm

        Thank you.


      • MM Jan 4, 2016 / 6:28 pm

        Thank you, too


  5. AB Jan 3, 2016 / 11:33 pm

    “This is the sort of day that gets kids interested, because they want to be the next Ben Stokes”

    Yes, I am sure that the kids at the local secondary school will be talking of literally nothing else other than a bloke they have never heard of playing a sport they have no interest in over 300 miles away

    Liked by 1 person

    • Badger Jan 4, 2016 / 12:04 am

      Hard to disagree with, although 300 miles seems a bit low given that it’s nearer 9000 miles!


      • "IronBalls" McGinty Jan 4, 2016 / 8:39 am

        Yes, how many actually saw it in this country? 100k…200k?? Sporting inspiration snatched away from those who most need it!


      • Tuffers86 Jan 4, 2016 / 10:03 am

        To be fair, away tests were never free to air anyway.


      • SimonH Jan 4, 2016 / 10:36 am

        I can’t recall any tour being shown live FTA – but certainly the Ashes used to have FTA highlights. Other tours tended to be more hit-and-miss (I can remember a NZ tour in the late 80s had highlights on ITV – who broadcast them at about 3am when I didn’t have a VHS!).


      • "IronBalls" McGinty Jan 4, 2016 / 11:13 am

        It doesn’t mean because how things were, that’s how they have to be? SA is only a couple of hours in front! We can’t just be complacent, we need to keep badgering the buggers to get cricket back to the public and get kids inspired!


  6. amit Jan 4, 2016 / 3:17 am

    As good as Stokes was (and he was incredible), SA were poor. The bowling, fielding was just mind numbing poor.
    No one concedes at over 6 an over for 60 overs in a test match. That Stokes and Bairstow were allowed to score that many runs at that clip and with that many boundaries shows that the new group of bowlers still has some way to go. I am not knocking Stokes (or JB) down – I saw the game on TV and it was incredible indeed. He was smoking it all over the place and against the top test side, albeit low on confidence and missing key bowlers. I couldn’t believe the scorelines through the day and it kept going on and on. By the end of it, i was feeling sorry for the bowlers.

    With Amla getting a few runs and with AB looking in decent nick, it should be a decent day 3 but there can only be one winner in this game unless AB does an encore and beats the score on his own.
    Before the series, if someone said England would be ahead by this much at this stage of series, it might have been laughed at, but SA have not been competitive in this series.
    Yesterday, they got mauled!


    • metatone Jan 4, 2016 / 10:11 am

      Have to say, so far this morning it’s looking like a “draw pitch.” However, as you note, England have the runs on the board, so it’s going to take hard work for SA to get there.


  7. SimonH Jan 4, 2016 / 8:21 am

    Sydney Test looks a washout – only about 10 overs’ play overnight and poor weather forecasts for the next three days.


    • Tuffers86 Jan 4, 2016 / 10:04 am

      Wonder if there will be some declarations going on?


      • amit Jan 4, 2016 / 11:06 am

        Dont expect windies to declare. They can do with one less game lost 🙂


    • d'Arthez Jan 4, 2016 / 11:35 am

      If there is a declaration in the game, it will be Australia’s. Biff it for 50 overs as if it is a T20, and then see what the Windies put up next.


  8. camelsticks Jan 4, 2016 / 11:18 am

    See that the guardian OBO can’t leave it alone

    “Kudos to Mike Selvey. Not for the turquoise T-shirt he’s currently sporting on Sky Sports. Definitely not for that. But because he spotted Amla’s imminent return to form in the second innings of the first Test. There’s a scandalous war on expertise at the moment, so thank goodness for people like Selve. ” – 11:01 entry


    • Arron Wright Jan 4, 2016 / 12:15 pm

      First thing Rob wrote at the start of his stint as well. Personally I gave up on the OBO when it moved from being a genuinely democratic conversation to a clique/court, with far too many emails and tweets from the “Selvemeister General” published, just to remind everyone who the “expert” actually is.


      • LordCanisLupus Jan 4, 2016 / 12:23 pm

        I love how Newman shoe horned two Alastair Cook innings into his ode to Stokes and not the innings that this most reminded me of. Clue. 2005. 158.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. sopwithpup Jan 4, 2016 / 11:20 am

    See that the Guardian OBO can’t leave it alone

    “Kudos to Mike Selvey. Not for the turquoise T-shirt he’s currently sporting on Sky Sports. Definitely not for that. But because he spotted Amla’s imminent return to form in the second innings of the first Test. There’s a scandalous war on expertise at the moment, so thank goodness for people like Selve. ” 11:01 comment


    • LordCanisLupus Jan 4, 2016 / 12:26 pm

      Selvey predicts world class batsman will score runs on flat deck. Keep saying it and you might be right one day.


    • northernlight71 Jan 4, 2016 / 12:42 pm

      Yes, having the temerity to point out the occasions when a journalist has his facts wrong, seems misinformed or you simply disagree with their opinion is a “war on expertise ”
      We should just accept it when our betters say “jump, plebs” shouldn’t we?


    • Tregaskis Jan 4, 2016 / 5:23 pm

      This from Rob Smyth is exactly the kind of simple-minded, protect-our-own nonsense that alienates folk. No-one, that I have read, has signed up to a scandalous war against Mike Selvey’s expertise. Critics have, rather, drawn attention to his pomposity, his rudeness, his lack of balance, his seeming to be utterly beholden to the ECB and its dystopian agenda. The charge against Mike Selvey, and this is his tragedy as well as ours, is not that he lacks expertise, penmanship and position, but that he has chosen to misuse the gifts and privileges afforded him.

      Liked by 3 people

      • MM Jan 4, 2016 / 6:32 pm

        “he has chosen to misuse the gifts and privileges afforded him”

        Too right. To me, a good definition of a sell-out.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Arron Wright Jan 4, 2016 / 6:36 pm

        And that’s exactly how people like us were painted when it all kicked off in summer 2012, and exactly how we’ve been misrepresented ever since. And plenty of those helping him get away with it (the county bloggers, you might call them) appear to have had their own critical faculties severed at the neck. It’s like reading wire taps from Jonestown on there these days. I admit defeat.


      • paulewart Jan 5, 2016 / 11:36 am

        Indeed, most readers value his expertise. It’s when he strays into cant and demagoguery that we despair.


  10. SimonH Jan 4, 2016 / 11:22 am

    Amla century up – that’s one less parallel with the ‘difficult winter’.

    He’s the one to give a chance today, dropped by Anderson at slip off Root. On replay, Anderson hardly seemed to see it and Selvey’s saying on Twitter that Root’s blaming his drop yesterday on a difficult background (not sure if the two drops were at the same end). Presumably they’ve apologised to each other?

    Despite the chance, ABDV’s looked in more trouble. He’s found run-scoring off the seamers difficult and several mis-hits have not quite gone to hand.

    Second new ball imminent.


    • d'Arthez Jan 4, 2016 / 11:39 am

      Also far fewer innings between tons for Amla. He got all of one innings in Bangladesh, 7 in India (but I have seen village roads more suitable for cricket, as must have the cricketers – unlike some of the featherbeds Cook had, that saw Jimmy Anderson almost score a ton against India), 2 against England, and one against West Indies if my memory serves.


      • SimonH Jan 4, 2016 / 1:00 pm

        A catch! Not Amla who was dropped again – at point by Compton (not easy diving to his left but two-handed and a good height). ABDV caught pulling off Finn who caused him trouble throughout.

        Crucial moment in the game – SA’s lower order has been crumbly all year and they need FDP and others to stand up here. England still lead by about 350.


  11. d'Arthez Jan 4, 2016 / 1:00 pm

    De Villiers gone. He never looked comfortable today. Courtesy of several dropped catches, the Amla-AB partnership took a healthy amount of overs out of the game. Still about 220 left, and South Africa will need to bat some serious time in this innings to save the Test.


  12. Nicholas Jan 4, 2016 / 1:16 pm

    I must say, Gower’s monologue about the importance of conserving the rhino species (in response to Mark Boucher’s charity work) during the lunch interval was one of the more bizarre bits of television I’ve seen…


    • Arron Wright Jan 4, 2016 / 1:32 pm

      Ha bloody ha.

      I knew this was coming. Half-expected it to be in his “highlights of the year”, as yet another exercise in blatant trolling.

      Liked by 1 person

    • d'Arthez Jan 4, 2016 / 1:43 pm

      Ah, yes. Cricket in Kenya. I’ll save myself a blood pressure gauge by detailing some of the incompetence of the ICC and Cricket Kenya on that score …

      Because obviously, a Maasai cricket team in a movie is worthy of much more conversation than amateur / semi-professional cricketers in Kenya, who represent the country.


      • SimonH Jan 4, 2016 / 4:12 pm

        Tim Wigmore’s chapter on Kenya in ‘Second XI: Cricket in its Outposts’ is terrific (as is the whole book). He doesn’t deny Kenya’s decline had internal causes (like lack of a development programme, corruption, security) but unsurprisingly the ICC and full-member nations come out of it ingloriously as well. The number of ODIs Kenya had in the 35 months after the 2003 WC? Five.

        I’ve never seen an indication that Selvey’s read it. He isn’t exactly shy of plugging books when they’re written by his mates (like Steve James) or when they fit in with his agenda (like that book about how the IPL has nothing to do with cricket that he kept recommending a while back).

        Perhaps he’ll read it after watching DOAG.


  13. d'Arthez Jan 4, 2016 / 4:02 pm

    England have only bowled 87 overs in the 6.5 hours. Poor overrate, which is even more exasperating if we take the context of the game into consideration: after Stokes assault, it would take a massive stuff-up of epic proportions for England to come even close to losing the game.

    212/1 for the day. South Africa definitely happy with their efforts for the day.


  14. pktroll (@pktroll) Jan 4, 2016 / 7:37 pm

    It would have been very hard to consider South Africa not having one match where Amla or De Villers would come to the party. That both have in the same innings may well mean that SA, with their depleted bowling attack, may come out of this test with a draw. If this does indeed happen then SA may will feel in far better fettle going into the last two tests with perhaps a couple of bowling reinforcements.


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