CAPE TOWN, South Africa (AP) — Ben Stokes’ counterattacking half-century put England on top at 317-5 against South Africa at stumps on the first day of the second test on Saturday.
Stokes made a rapid 74 not out with 11 fours and a six to ensure England ultimately had a good opening day at Newlands.
After winning the toss and batting on a good strip, the batsmen continued to turn the screw on top-ranked South Africa following a 241-run win in the first test.
Stokes was one of three batsmen to make a half-century on Saturday, but South Africa also had opportunities to take control after Kagiso Rabada took two wickets in two balls in his 3-74. England made a solid start, and was 167-2 when Rabada removed Nick Compton and James Taylor in successive balls either side of tea.
But that South African revival was short-lived, and England got back on top as Stokes and Jonny Bairstow built an unbeaten 94-run partnership for the sixth wicket. Stokes was especially aggressive, taking on anything short and wide for a flurry of boundaries in the final session.
A victory for England at Newlands would ensure it can’t lose the four-match series, and put it on course for a first series win over South Africa in 11 years.
England’s batting performance was solid throughout: Alastair Cook and Alex Hales shared a 55-run opening partnership, with Hales going on to score 60 for his maiden test half-century. Nick Compton was typically patient for his 45, and put on 74 with Hales. Joe Root made 50 to put England in decent shape before Stokes and Bairstow made sure the visiting team was dominant by close.
Standing in for injured strike bowler Steyn, the 20-year-old Rabada finished with 3-74 on the day for the one bright light for the Proteas.
South Africa was forced into two changes to its bowling lineup following the first test in Durban, with Steyn and Kyle Abbott out injured and the inexperienced Rabada and debutant Chris Morris in. The South Africans also dropped JP Duminy in an attempt to shake up their misfiring batting order and find a way back into the series.
England gave South Africa just a brief glimpse of a chance to make serious inroads when Compton went for a pull shot just before tea and hit it straight to Temba Bavuma at midwicket. Rabada had James Taylor caught behind on the first ball after the tea break.
Root scored briskly, beginning 2016 with a test half-century following a standout 2015.
Stokes clubbed pulls and cut shots to see England surge away in the late afternoon, with Bairstow providing good support with his 39 not out.