South Africa lost the plot in the afternoon and found themselves in dire straits after the second day of the second Test against England at Old Trafford on Friday, needing another 241 runs to get the hosts to bat again.

Openers Sarel Hervey (12*) and Dean Elgar (11*) will resume on the morning of 23 without loss, but the skipper will not only be looking at the huge mountain in front of his team, but also the decisions on the field. .

England amassed 415/9 declared in their first innings thanks to inspired centuries from captain Ben Stokes and wicketkeeper Ben Fox, who added a match-defining 173 for the sixth wicket.

They came together in an intriguing morning session in which fast bowler Henrich Nortier made the first two breakthroughs in England’s batting, dismissing Jonny Bairstow (49) and Zach Crowley (38), both with excellent deliveries that were exposed and then pulled away to be caught behind the wicket.

That left England on 147/5 with South Africa still four runs ahead. But Stokes and Fawkes batted with great clarity and composure, digging in until the hosts moved to lunch on 212/5.

With the lead now at 61, you’d imagine the talk in the South African dressing room over lunch would only be about hitting England hard just after the break to try and kill the tail as quickly as possible.

But incredibly, the red-hot Nortje was not brought into action until spinners Simon Harmer and Keshav Maharaj had played 35 minutes, allowing Stokes and Fox to get well into the crease.

Also read: Nortje blitz convinces Proteus victory over England

Having established control, Stokes and Fawkes began to bat with greater freedom as the Proteas became more and more desperate for a breakthrough, four overs not going in their favour.

Stokes hit his fourth century in 14 Tests against South Africa but fell for 103 when trying to bowl Kaghis Rabada. One of the most competitive cricketers in the world delivered a masterclass in situational play, his judgment on when to attack and when to defend firmly was near perfect.

Fawkes hit his second Test century and finished with a career-best 113 not out, a decisive innings that meant a lot to his team in which he targeted his favorite leg side with nimble footwork and excellent hitting, collecting nine fours.

Northier’s bowling – he finished with 3/82 in 20 overs – and the fact that England failed to buy a wicket in the nine overs they played in South Africa in front of stumps were the only positives for the Proteas on day two, which somehow in a way it turned out worse than their troubles on opening day.

Also Read: Proteas skipper Rabada puts in a valiant effort with bat and ball

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