Stokes and Pope look to build on solid England start on day two of third Test

England will look to capitalise on good work from Ben Stokes and Ollie Pope when play resumes on day two of the third Test against South Africa.

Stokes and Pope combined in an unbroken stand of 76 in the evening session, guiding the tourists away from a potentially tricky position to a promising stumps score of 224 for four on day one.

Stokes’ ability to take command of a match, with bat or ball, needs no re-stating and Pope looked in wonderful touch as he cashed in against a tiring attack. Together they will look to push England towards 400, leaving their bowlers the safety net they might need on a sluggish pitch in Port Elizabeth.

South Africa, meanwhile, may once again lean on the twin pillars of Keshav Maharaj’s spin and Kagiso Rabada’s pace as they look to find a foothold in the game.

What they said

Key match-up: Ben Stokes v Keshav Maharaj

Stokes has the technique and the muscle to disrupt the rhythm Maharaj built-up on day one and might be tempted by the challenge of hitting him out of the attack. But there is risk as well as reward in that strategy, with the left-arm spinner already subjecting Stokes to a couple of close shaves. Watch this space.

Crawley creeping up

Zak Crawley
Zak Crawley

Crawley has so far posted a new Test best score in each of his four innings for England. He started with a low base of one against New Zealand, then made four in his second knock. Things have slowly started to head in a more promising direction, with efforts of 25 and 44 suggesting a growing comfort with life at the highest level.

Faf’s flipping nightmare

Faf du Plessis
Faf du Plessis

South Africa captain Faf du Plessis must have forgotten what it feels like to choose between batting and bowling, having lost six consecutive tosses in a row. He still has a little way to go before he matches compatriot Graeme Smith’s worst run of eight successive losses between 2008-09. Former England skipper Nasser Hussain still holds the unwanted record, though, with 10 in a row from 2000-01.

Friends reunited

Kevin Pietersen and Matt Prior had a high-profile falling out after some incendiary comments in the former’s autobiography. The pair were both rostered on as part of talkSPORT’s commentary team for this match and rather than keep away from each other, they met in the middle ahead of play for a long chat and a handshake. Tweets from both proved that ill feelings have finally been left in the past.

Data point

Joe Denly has now faced at least 100 balls in nine of his past 13 innings. The ‘Dentury’ is fast becoming a virtual guarantee but the Kent man is still struggling to match the runs output required of a number three. Here he made 25, lowering his career average to 31.04.