England in the driver’s seat at Newlands

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Ben Stokes launched a typically ruthless attack on the second new ball to lead England to a strong position on the opening day of the second Sunfoil Test match against the Castle Lager Proteas at PPC Newlands on Saturday. England ended the day on 317 for 5.

The inexperienced Proteas attack, boasting three players with a combined total of 9 Test appearances, seemed to have done a good job after losing the toss on a perfect batting strip to restrict England to 167/4 just after tea with Kagiso Rabada, on his home Test debut, taking two wickets with successive deliveries.

Later, debutant Chris Morris also chimed in with his maiden Test wicket – that of Joe Root – to leave England on 223/5 after 68 overs.

But Stokes and Jonny Bairstow batted comfortably through to the second new ball before Stokes unleashed his power game against the new cherry. He set the tone by hitting 4 boundaries off the first five deliveries he received from Morris and cantered to an unbeaten 74 (93 balls, 11 fours and a six) by the close. Bairstow’s contribution (39 not out off 59 balls, 5 fours) could also not be underestimated and the sixth wicket stand is already worth 94 at a rate of just under five to the over.

England’s batting was solid throughout with only James Taylor, who got a first-baller, not getting away to a start but, until Stokes arrives on the scene, none of them took it on to the contribution England wanted.

The pitch was a good one and, although there was little in the way of swing or seam, there was plenty of bounce and carry that encouraged the Proteas to keep their slips in position throughout the day.

Rabada was the most successful of the bowlers taking 3/74 in 19 overs including a spell of 2/6 in 4 overs when he dismissed Nicholas Compton and Taylor with successive deliveries either side of the tea interval.

That spell ended when he left the field for physiotherapy treatment and he did not seem to have quite the same spark when he took the second new ball. His absence from the field left the Proteas a bowler short once again and underlined how badly they are missing a fourth seamer in their line-up.

Dane Piedt did a good holding job for most of the day but Hashim Amla has a difficult job rotating his bowlers even when he has all three his seamers fit and firing.

They will certainly need to freshen up overnight and make early inroads tomorrow to put the match back on an even keel.

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