South Africa v England: What we learned from Cape Town Test
Ben Stokes, Temba Bavuma and Hashim Amla top Test talking points
By David Currie
Last Updated: 10/01/16 6:51am
So England escaped from the second Test in Cape Town with a draw, an unfathomable prospect when Ben Stokes was in full flow on day two.
Stokes cracked a stunning 258 off 198 balls as England amassed a seemingly insurmountable 629-6 declared in their first innings.
Indeed it wasn't bettered by South Africa, but Hashim Amla's own double-hundred saw them to within two runs, before the hosts got the better of day five as a thrilling Test ultimately ended in a draw.
Here are just some of the thrills and spills seen over the past few days at Newlands...
You couldn't have more contrasting double hundreds than the ones scored by Stokes and Amla in this Test, but both were of supreme quality. Stokes was brutal as he struck the fastest Test 250, smacking a staggering 30 fours and 11 sixes. With England at one stage struggling at 223-5 on the first day, his assault on the second new ball turned the tide in England's favour, before it swept South Africa away on the second morning, as England added 196 in the first session alone.
Amla - under an enormous amount of pressure due to his questionable captaincy in that England first innings, and in the midst of a run of only one Test fifty across his last 13 innings - responded with real resilience and character. Scoreboard pressure in the form of 629 England runs didn't deter him, nor did arriving at the crease at 7-1. He stubbornly set about denying England for 477 balls, notching his fourth Test double-hundred in the process, helping his side to such a position of strength that ultimately they looked the more likely team to win on the fifth day.
It was to prove Amla's final innings as South Africa captain, as shortly after the Test's end, he resigned the captaincy. it was an unexpected move having finally found some form with the bat, and having oh so nearly guided his side to one of the most unlikely victories in Test history, but in truth Amla oft looked lost as South Africa skipper, guiding the supposed No 1 team in the world to just four Test wins in the last 14.
AB de Villiers, a man that South Africa were supposedly keen to look after and reduce the workload of with whispers of a potential Test retirement a week ago, takes over for the final two Tests of the series. He has at least relinquished the wicketkeeping gloves, and he too found some form with the bat at Newlands, scoring 88 and contributing to a 183-run partnership with Amla. These are encouraging signs for South Africa's deadly double act, as any way back for them in this series will depend on heavily on their form with the bat, regardless of which one of them is captain.
Catching costs England
It could all have been all so different for England. They dropped Amla four times, on 21, 76, 120, and 201. They weren't their only offences either, England dropped nine catches in total, with De Villiers put down when having only scored five. Had those initial opportunities been taken, a total of 263 runs would have been saved relating to those two batsmen alone, and England would surely by looking at a 2-0 series lead now with two to play.
Instead they escaped with a draw, and what an escape it turned out to be with South Africa first getting to within two of England's mammoth first innings total, before a nervy second effort with the bat saw England stutter to 116-6 at one stage on day five, opening the door for a potential South Africa slog-a-thon run-chase to level the series. That possibility was eventually extinguished with the fading light, but England's sloppiness very nearly cost them a Test from a seemingly invincible position. One plus though is that England created those opportunities with the ball on such a flat pitch, with Steven Finn proving particularly impressive. He and England's fast-bowling fraternity will hope they get more assistance from the surface - and their team-mates - in Johannesburg.
Arguably the Test's most memorable moments didn't belong to either Stokes or Amla despite their combined 459 runs. Call us when you've scored 1,000 lads! The two centuries scores by Jonny Bairstow and Temba Bavuma were of particular emotional and historic significance. Bairstow has taken 22 Tests to score his maiden century in an up and down international career since notching his previous highest score of 95 against the same opposition at Lord's three and a half years ago. The tension was palpable as he navigated his way through the nervous nineties again, and the emotion obvious when he reached his hundred, bending over backwards in his celebration and looking to the heavens in tribute to his late father David - a former Yorkshire and England cricketer - sadly having died in 1998.
Bavuma's brilliance meanwhile was of huge historical significance, as he became the first black African to score a Test century for South Africa. It was the flourish and flair with which he did it too, off 148 balls, scoring 16 fours, in the face of a fierce and vocal England attack, which made it even more impressive.
Bumble's Barmy Army
What did Bumble get up to in this Test? A fair bit, as per usual. We found him infiltrating the Barmy Army after Stokes' sensational double-hundred, although the proud Lancastrian found one too many Yorkshiremen for his liking. He awoke a sleeping supporter with the face of a familiar colleague looming large, was scared off by the advances of a female fan and joined in with a Moeen Ali chant or two.
We also went rollin' with Bumble in the groundsman's shed on day one, as he affectionately named the rollers from little to large, There was the 'James Taylor', the 'Samit Patel' and the more intimidating 'Rob Key'. Bumble found time to answer some of your tweets on day three, and Joe Root even had him doing some of his dirty laundry! Sadly it all had him feeling a little poorly by day five, so we wish him a speedy recovery and hope we can have some more fun with him in Johannesburg. Get well soon Bumble!
Our coverage of the second Test between South Africa and England from Johannesburg begins at 8am on Sky Sports 2 HD on Thursday, January 14.