Sunday, 5 December 2021

Ben Stokes blasts brilliant 258 as England make South Africa suffer

Sometimes it pays just to fasten the seat belt, sit back and enjoy the ride. And what a ride it has been. Going in to bat on a hat-trick on Saturday, Ben Stokes produced an innings that will for ever sit in the memory of those fortunate enough to have been at Newlands, and many who were not, so that by the time he was run out in slightly comical fashion an hour after lunch on Sunday, after AB de Villiers had dropped a vertical mishit at mid-on, he had made 258, the highest score by an England batsman against South Africa. Yet that in itself comes nowhere near telling a story of a remarkable innings that went from strength to strength, the stroke play becoming increasingly outrageous and carefree until the bowling looked utterly bereft under the onslaught. It was quite possibly the most brutally destructive innings that any England batsman has ever played, the records tumbling by the minute, it seemed.

For almost five hours of his innings, during which he and his partner constructed a partnership of 399, the highest for the sixth wicket in Test history, Stokes had a companion even more flame-haired than himself. On any other day, Jonny Bairstow’s maiden Test century would be the story of the day, a beautiful innings so wrapped in emotion that there were tears of joy and sadness mixed when he lambasted the square cut that took him to three figures and looked to the azure sky above from where his father, David, might have been watching, ruddy-faced, chest-puffed, chuffed for his lad.

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