Ben Stokes, Ollie Pope centuries put England on top against South Africa

Port Elizabeth: Ben Stokes and Ollie Pope hit centuries as England built a strong position on the second day of the third Test against South Africa and England at St George’s Park on Friday. England were 426 for eight at tea. The four-match series is tied at 1-1. World player of the year Stokes hit 120, his ninth Test century, while Pope was unbeaten on 106, his maiden Test hundred. Stokes and Pope put on 203 for the fifth wicket after coming together on the first day when their side were struggling at 148 for four.

In contrast to an attritional first day, when England could only score 224 for four in 90 overs, England scored freely for most of the day, although Pope made hard work of moving from his score of 75 at lunch to his century, needing most of the afternoon before he punched Anrich Nortje through midwicket for his 14th boundary after facing 190 balls. While Pope moved cautiously to join Dom Sibley in scoring a maiden Test hundred during the series, Sam Curran provided the impetus for England as he hit an aggressive 44 off 50 balls, with six fours and a six.

He and Pope put on 59 for the seventh wicket, with Pope contributing 13. Hit by the news that strike bowler Kagiso Rabada would miss the fourth and final Test after incurring a fourth disciplinary demerit point within 24 months, South Africa’s bowlers neither posed a significant threat nor were able to exert the control they did on the first day as Stokes and Pope dominated the morning without being parted. Stokes eventually sliced a catch to backward point off debutant Dane Paterson after making 120 off 214 balls with 12 fours and two sixes.

South Africa had a better afternoon, picking up four wickets, with three of them taken by left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj, who had figures of four for 135. Having conceded only 55 runs in 32 overs on Thursday, Maharaj gave up another 80 runs in 21.2 overs on Friday. Maharaj was attacked by Stokes, who hit sixes in both of the spin bowler’s first two overs, one of which sailed out of the ground beyond midwicket.

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