Sunday 25 March 2018

Stokes' record double-century stuns South Africans

Ben Stokes and Jonny Bairstow discuss tactics between overs. Photo: Reuters
Ben Stokes and Jonny Bairstow discuss tactics between overs. Photo: Reuters Newsdesk Newsdesk

Ben Stokes and Jonny Bairstow provided England's first great sporting moment of 2016 with a sensational 399-run stand on day two of the second Test against South Africa.

Stokes lit up Cape Town with one of the most dominant batting performances in living memory, mercilessly flogging the home attack for 258 in 198 balls, including the second-fastest double century in Test history.

And Bairstow followed his lead with 150 not out, his maiden Test hundred, before captain Alastair Cook declared on 629 for six.

South Africa, shell-shocked by the beating in the field, took tea at 24 for one after Stiaan van Zyl was softly run out.

Between them Stokes and Bairstow laid waste to the record books, chalking up a slew of new landmarks with their muscular free-hitting.

The pair now sit second on England's list of greatest partnerships, only bettered by the 411 between Peter May and Colin Cowdrey against the West Indies in 1957.

Stokes finished with 30 boundaries and 11 sixes - no Englishman has ever hit more maximums in an innings - while Bairstow weighed in with 18 fours and two sixes.


South Africa were depleted, of course, without the injured trio of Dale Steyn, Kyle Abbott and Vernon Philander, but England, and Stokes in particular, treated the bowling attack like imposters on the big stage.

In the first session they scored 196 in 25 overs - the second-biggest pre-lunch tally in history as well as England's record for any session of Test cricket - and after the break tucked into another 116 in 13.5 overs.

It was a thrilling, bravura show from Stokes and Bairstow and at times it verged on the cruel as South Africa visibly fell to pieces, twice dropping simple catches to end the partnership.

The second of those, a dolly to AB de Villiers, ended Stokes' dominance, as he found himself ball-watching in the middle of the pitch and was run out England declared soon after, but not before Bairstow reached a significant personal milestone by moving to 150.

Having ended day one with an onslaught on the second new ball, Stokes upped the ante again as soon as play resumed.

He needed just 12 balls to move from his overnight score of 74 to 100, during which he drummed Morne Morkel and Chris Morris to the boundary five times.

Having reached three figures he leapt in the air, roared in delight and pumped his fist in celebration.

It was to become a familiar sight for the rest of the day as the South Africans failed to recover from the English onslaught.

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