Ben Stokes hits first century as captain as England take control against SA

·3-min read

Ben Stokes made his first century as England captain as he and Ben Foakes put the hosts in a commanding position on day two of the second LV= Insurance Test against South Africa.

Stokes made 103 on day two at Emirates Old Trafford, powering his team into a handsome lead of 169 before holing out six balls later.

England were still four runs behind when he came together with Foakes (69no) in the morning session, with the pair eventually parted on 320 for six.

Ben Stokes put England in a commanding position
Ben Stokes put England in a commanding position (Nick Potts/PA)

Stokes hit three sixes and six fours, but a strike-rate of 63.19 told a better story about the balance he was able to strike between power and poise.

England started the day on 111 for three, still 40 behind, with Zak Crawley and Jonny Bairstow hoping to cash in on their hard work the previous evening.

Crawley had ground out just 17 runs from 77 balls, but there was an early sign that things would be different in his first scoring shot, a thick edge that disappeared through the slip cordon for four.

He also found himself squared up by Anrich Nortje, with a loopy leading edge somehow failing to go to hand at cover.

Zak Crawley walks off after being dismissed
Zak Crawley walks off after being dismissed (Nick Potts/PA)

Nortje, not the for the first time this series, was hitting his straps and asking searching questions at venomous pace. It was a heady mix and enough to account for both overnight batters before the deficit had been cleared.

Bairstow was first to go for 49, nicking a reverse-swinging delivery to slip to end a stand worth 91. Crawley marginally outlasted him, and picked off a couple of boundary balls from Kagiso Rabada, but was undone for 38 when Nortje forced him to defend on off stump and found just enough shape to flick the edge.

South Africa led by 17 when Stokes emerged and four when Foakes joined him, but the duo settled neatly into the job of building an English advantage. Stokes saw out the remainder of Nortje’s opening burst and then rewarded himself by slog-sweeping his first ball from Simon Harmer for six.

He had 16 when a dashed single left him wincing in pain, his troublesome left knee once again causing him discomfort, but after a visit from the physio he was soon punching Lungi Ngidi down the ground with a wonderful check drive.

Foakes proved a sound foil as England progressed confidently, successfully overturning an lbw decision on 28 before clubbing a no-ball for four just before lunch to take the total past 100 runs for the session.

Perhaps surprisingly, Nortje was held back at the restart in favour of spin at both ends. Keshav Maharaj almost bowled a reverse-sweeping Stokes second ball, but otherwise the game began drifting away from the tourists.

Stokes injected some adrenaline by smashing Harmer for six to bring up the first half-century of the match. Nortje returned for a three-over spell but could not recreate his previous menace, conceding 13 without much discomfort.

Anrich Nortje bowls at Old Trafford
Anrich Nortje bowls at Old Trafford (David Davies/PA)

Stokes was increasingly emboldened, stepping away to swat Ngidi over extra-cover before launching Maharaj over long-off for six more. Foakes quietly ticked past 50 at the other end before South Africa unwrapped a new ball to try and lift their fortunes.

Stokes greeted its arrival by easing into the 90s with a flick off his pads, then hammered Ngidi to cover. Aiden Markram made a fine effort to pull of a wonder catch but had to make do with a plucky parry.

South Africa sent an lbw appeal upstairs when Nortje struck Stokes on 96 just before tea, but the ball was missing leg.