Hales laps up flamboyant Stokes knock

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Alex Hales saluted "maverick" England all-rounder Ben Stokes after his entertaining unbeaten half-century put England on top at stumps on day one of the second Test against South Africa.

The Proteas would have been more than happy with the state of play when Joe Root was dismissed for 50 to leave England on 223-5 early in the evening session on a flat pitch at Newlands.

But Stokes and Jonny Bairstow (39 not out) put on 94 in quick time to move the tourists on to 317-5 at the close of play, as they attempt to take a 2-0 lead in the four-match series following their victory in Durban earlier this week.

Hales, who brought up his maiden Test half-century before being dismissed for 69, savoured seeing Stokes move swiftly on to 74 not out at the close.

The opening batsman said: "It's brilliant to see Ben bat like that. He's a maverick player with bat and ball - probably the best fielder in the side too - and when he gets going like that it makes brilliant viewing for the whole ground.

"All the bowlers are snoozing on the physio beds but the batters are straight out to watch him.

"It makes exhilarating viewing. But it was an even battle between bat and ball out there.

"The lengths our bowlers will bowl on there will bring slips and keeper into play. There was bounce and movement in the pitch so that's encouraging signs for us going into tomorrow."

Hales was relieved to make a significant contribution with the bat, with much debate over whether he is capable of making an impact at Test level.

He said: "A lot of the public will have only seen me in Twenty20 and one-day cricket but opening in four-day cricket and Test cricket is very different; it's something I have worked very hard on in the last two years.

"I do approach it differently to those formats. It's a great feeling to get that score on the board but I was disappointed not to make it to three figures."

Hales added: "Regardless of the situation, every time you go out to bat for England in international cricket there is a point to prove. This is a new challenge for me in my career and something I have loved so far."