CAPE TOWN – Ben Stokes unleashed one of cricket’s most destructive innings for his 258 as England racked up 629-6 declared in a morale-crushing day for South Africa in the second test on Sunday.
Stokes powered to the second-fastest double century in tests in an astonishing display of dominance over the struggling but still top-ranked Proteas, propelling England from 317-5 overnight to its huge first-innings total in less than 40 overs of power hitting on the second day at Newlands.
“I’m probably not going to play like this ever again in my life,” the 24-year-old Stokes said.
Stokes and Jonny Bairstow, who was 150 not out, had a record partnership of 399, with Stokes claiming the fastest 250 in test cricket before he was run out. Their partnership was the best for the sixth wicket in tests and England’s second best for any wicket.
South Africa, staring at a big defeat and a 2-0 series deficit, was fighting at 141-2 at stumps, still 488 behind. England had removed both openers: Stiaan van Zyl to a run out and Dean Elgar for 44 to give Stokes a wicket to go with his brilliant contribution with the bat. Captain Hashim Amla was 64 not out and AB de Villiers was 25 not out, desperately trying to hold England at bay.
Earlier, when England declared two balls after Stokes’ dismissal, the tourists had scored 312 runs in a session-and-a-half at a scintillating rate of nearly seven per over. On a day of landmarks under Table Mountain, the bigger picture was that England amassed its second-highest total in more than 120 years of test cricket in South Africa, only behind its 654-5 in the timeless test in Durban in 1939.
That was almost entirely down to Stokes and Bairstow’s stunning partnership, a boundary-filled stand that left South Africa utterly dejected and way behind in the series having already lost the first test by 241 runs.
“It was just a very intense session-and-a-half by Ben Stokes which was quite amazing to watch from where I was standing,” South Africa’s Elgar said. “I was standing at the boundary a lot fetching the ball.”
Stokes’ catalog of big blows brought a series of stats. He bludgeoned 30 fours and 11 sixes, the most sixes for England in a test innings. The 130 he scored in the first session was the most by any player before lunch in a test. The double hundred came off 163 balls, only behind Nathan Astle’s double ton off 153 deliveries for New Zealand against England in 2001-02.
“It hasn’t really all sunk in yet,” Stokes said. “Obviously out there emotions were running high.” He described his tactics as simple: “See ball, hit ball . . . I’m just going to try and hit every ball for six,” he said.