Benjamin Stokes
Benjamin Stokes

CAPE TOWN: Ben Stokes bludgeoned a career-best 204 not out, the second fastest double century ever, in a devastating display of attacking batting to power England to 513-5 in the second test against South Africa yesterday. With Stokes rampant, England plundered 196 runs off just 25 overs in the first session on day two to take complete control and leave the top-ranked South Africans reeling. Stokes, on 74 overnight, needed just 12 balls on Sunday morning to get to his century, and continued to flay the South Africa bowling attack all over Newlands. Stokes and Jonny Bairstow, who was 95 not out, shared a destructive and unbroken 290-run partnership, a record sixth-wicket stand for England.

Among a series of significant statistics, Stokes’ brilliant double hundred came off 163 balls, the second fastest behind Nathan Astle’s 153-ball double ton against England in 2001-02. Also, Stokes battered 130 runs off just 74 balls on Sunday morning for a new test record for the most runs by a batsman in a session before lunch. That put England, already 1-0 ahead in the series, in complete command at one of South Africa’s favorite grounds, and where England hasn’t won since 1957. South Africa has lost just four times in 28 matches at Newlands since being readmitted to test cricket, all against Australia.

Newlands’ reputation as a bastion for South Africa came crumbling down with Stokes’ assault. The left-handed allrounder smashed two cover drives for four in the day’s first over, and had hit 33 boundaries in all, 26 fours and seven sixes. The last of those boundaries before lunch was a powerful pull off the back foot to the mid-wicket boundary to go past 200. Stokes leaped and punched his fist in the air to celebrate his first career double hundred.

His previous career best was 120. Although Sunday was all about Stokes, Bairstow continued his impressive series by approaching a century. He played the perfect foil to Stokes as England took a good position at 317-5 overnight to one where South Africa was just about out of the game already after less than two days of play. Without injured fast bowlers Dale Steyn and Kyle Abbott, South Africa’s patched up bowling attack was completely subdued: Morne Morkel, Kagiso Rabada, Chris Morris and spinner Dane Piedt all conceded more than 100 runs. Rabada had 3-123. England, searching for its first series win over South Africa in 11 years, has dominated the world’s No. 1-ranked test team from the start of the four-match series and won the first test in Durban by 241 runs. A series defeat will knock South Africa off the top of the test rankings. — AP