Stokes hits ton as England take command

PORT ELIZABETH: Ben Stokes rushed to his century and Ollie Pope moved within sight of a maiden test ton as England reached 335 for four wickets at lunch on day two of the third test against South Africa on Friday.

With South Africa digesting the news that top bowler Kagiso Rabada had been hit with a one-match ban that would rule him out of the fourth and final test, England turned the screw at St George’s Park.

Stokes was 108 not out and Pope unbeaten on 75 as England significantly picked up the run rate, adding 111 runs to their overnight score.

Stokes’ ninth test ton puts England in a commanding position as they look to take the lead in the four-match series, which is level at 1-1.

The England pair came out, after rain delayed the start of play by 45 minutes, with clear intent and quickly moved past 50 runs each as the skies over Port Elizabeth began to clear.

Stokes, who was on 38 overnight, reached 50 off 102 balls with Pope then following to the same milestone in 93 balls.

Stokes then accelerated to his century, taking only another 72 balls for his second 50, bringing up three figures with a characteristic cover drive.

In the process he passed 4,000 runs and became only the seventh test cricketer to reach that figure and take 100 wickets, achieving the milestone in fewer tests than England great Ian Botham.

Pope, who turned 22 earlier this month, survived a scare when he was given out lbw the ball after Stokes took a single to get his century. He successfully reviewed, however, denying South African debutant Dane Paterson a maiden test wicket.

South Africa’s bowlers continued to toil on a flat wicket, but looked deflated after Rabada's one-test suspension was confirmed just after Friday's play began. He will miss the last match in Johannesburg in a major blow to the hosts.

Rabada was given another demerit point for robustly celebrating the wicket of England captain Joe Root on Thursday by running down the pitch, going down on his haunches, clenching his fists and roaring into the ground.

The bowler, who has accumulated four demerit points in a 24-month period, was also fined 15% of his match fee by the International Cricket Council.