Ben Stokes savoured an exceptional day with the bat in Cape Town after rewriting England’s record books – with a little help along the way from Yorkshire’s Jonny Bairstow.
The Durham all-rounder clubbed 258 from 198 balls in the second Test against South Africa and put on 399 with Bairstow, who was 150 not out when England captain Alastair Cook declared at 629-6.
He then removed Dean Elgar as South Africa closed on 141-2, but it was his exploits earlier in the day that continued to dominate the headlines.
“It hasn’t quite sunk in yet,” he said at the end of the day’s play.
“I looked at the scoreboard, we had a lot runs on board and I thought we were in a good position anyway, with only five down, so I just chanced my arm. I didn’t think me slogging one up in the air would have put us in that bad a position!
“It’s complete instinct, I thought to myself what I was going to do and executed it the right way.
“You seem to pick the ball up a lot earlier and you bring the one-day and Twenty20 stuff back into the game when you’re going like that.
“Cookie ran a message out when we were 600, said 630 or do you want to go on for 300? I said it doesn’t really matter because I’m just trying to hit every ball for six anyway!”
Stokes was quick to praise Bairstow, too, for his contribution to Test cricket’s highest-ever sixth-wicket stand.
“People probably won’t speak about ‘Bluey’s’ knock but when another guy’s going hell for leather at the other end, you almost get drawn into doing that yourself,” he said.
“The way he played his natural game and didn’t look to go too far out of his box, I thought was amazing – and then once he got his hundred he let loose.”
Stokes stood aside to let Bairstow savour an emotional moment, the Yorkshireman roaring in delight at his hundred and then looking to the heavens as he remembered his late father – former England wicketkeeper David – and grandfather.
“It’s probably the best day of my life, I reckon,” said Jonny Bairstow.
“My mum was up there in one of the boxes, my sister as well, it’s a special day for all family – both here and up there.
“There were a lot of things building up through the last couple of years, my grandpa passing away last year and dad, it’s the anniversay of that coming up as well, so I’m absolutely delighted to score it in this new year’s Test match at such an iconic venue.”
On Stokes, he added: “It was unbelievable at the other end to be out there, some of the strokes he played were second to none.
“It was a pleasure to be out there and to put on the stand we did, it was a very, very special day and something I don’t think I’ll ever forget.”
Second Test, Cape Town (day two). England 629-6 dec: Stokes 258, Bairstow 150*; Rabada 3-175. South Africa 141-2: Amla 64*, Stokes 1-20. South Africa trail by 488 runs.