England skippers Ben Stokes and Ben Fox gave the Centuries a commanding lead after they declared on 415 for 9, with the Proteas trailing by 241 runs at the close of play in a thrilling Test series.
When South Africa dealt a crushing blow to England and batsman Jonny Bairstow in particular, they hoped for a turnaround after disastrous batting effort on the first day of their second Test match against England.
Henrich Nortier provided a glimmer of hope for the wilting Proteas when he lured the dangerous-looking Bairst into the area in the early hours of the morning; Sorrell Hervey took a catch at first slip to deny Bairst a well-deserved half-century by just a single run. Leaving English at 134 for 4.
Nortier’s pace and accuracy again proved lethal for the hosts in the second game of the three-match Test series. Twice after Bairst was sent back to the hut, Schweimer returned to torment the English. This time defeating the British Zach Crowley (38), who was left for the night.
That left England at 147 for 5, still four runs behind South Africa’s first innings total.
But that was the end of South Africa’s joy. After that, England’s two Bens at the crease – namely Stokes and Fawkes – tipped the tie in England’s favor with contrasting but equally important Test tones each.
The two Bens waited before registering a big and timely partnership, worth an impressive 173 runs for the sixth wicket, with both reaching their centuries on the day.
For Stokes, it was his 12th Test hundred and his first since becoming England captain. It was Fox’s second international Test century and first on home soil.
Although the skipper led from the front, his partner who tormented the South African players was equally brilliant during the partnership as he played the perfect lead role, allowing Stokes the freedom to attack the Proteas.
“They handled the pressure really well. Especially at the start [of their partnership]. Slowly but surely they’ve been building momentum and that partnership… They’ve played really well this time,” Nortier said of the partnership after another tough day for the Proteas.
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South Africa captain Dean Elgar decided to try to get a furious Stokes and Fox into the spin net by bringing in both of South Africa’s top spinners – Keshav Maharaj and Simon Harmer – after the lunch break.
However, the spinning duo failed to produce the breakthrough the Proteas – watched by the lethal Kagisa Rabada and Norje – were desperate for.
It would be Rabada who ended the dangerous partnership – removing captain Stokes for a massive 103 runs. The wickets swung in Proteas’ favor after that, with the two spinners making sure that England’s tail did not wag harmfully.
When Maharaj took the wicket of Jack Leach to see England sitting on 415 for 9, Stokes declared.
Nortje, who starred as South Africa took a 1-0 series lead, defended his captaincy’s use of spin.
“It’s a dry wicket compared to Lord’s. You have to go with the conditions,” Nortier said when asked about the decision to head into the Test with two spinners, and to use them so strictly when South Africa needed wickets that weren’t there.
“Dean had a plan according to what the situation told him … Every time we went out as a group, it was according to what the mindset was and also according to the conditions. We tried to use spinners from one or both ends,” Nortier said afterwards.
“Overall, it was a good wicket to bat on. So we can’t delve into who bowled when and at what time. It was just a good wicket at that stage.”
Hikers depart on the third day, trailing 241 tracks, and with Everest to climb in hopes of a comeback. But a 23-run stand between openers Elgar and Hervey in the second innings will offer some hope. DM