Cape Town – There’s a reason that Newlands is considered to be one of the most picturesque grounds in world cricket.
The neighbouring brewery and the mountains behind that provide the perfect backdrop and the leafy grass embankment on the opposite side provide the perfect vantage point to take it all in.
But the action on day two was far from pretty for South African cricket fans as the home side ended on 144/2 still some 488 behind England’s first innings total after the second day of the second Test here yesterday.
As horrifying as it was to watch Ben Stokes and Jonny Bairstow put the Proteas bowlers to the sword it was also riveting at the same time as the pair batted England to 629/6 declared.
Stokes, who struck the second highest score ever by a batsman at this venue, was at his brutal best as he shattered records left, right and centre and by the time he was run-out by AB de Villiers, who atoned for a schoolboy error dropped catch immediately, he had bludgeoned his way to 258 and into the history books.
“It hasn’t really sunk in yet. Obviously out there emotions were high and quite a lot of adrenalin,” Stokes said of his effort.
His stand of 399 with Bairstow came off just 352 balls, his double century off 163 balls the fastest by an English batsman and the second fastest ever in Test cricket. He also added 130 off 74 balls to add the most by a batsman before lunch.
By the close of play a total of 453 runs had been scored and just three wickets had fallen, two of them run-outs.
The other victim was Stiaan van Zyl as the home side got off to the worst possible start. The left-hander had added a well-timed boundary off his legs before a suicidal ending to his stay at the crease with the hosts on seven.
The batting effort did get better as Dean Elgar and Hashim Amla combined for a stand of 78 before the former departed, caught Compton bowled Stokes, for 44. It was then followed by Amla and DE Villiers seeing the hosts safely to the close.
“Funnily enough it wasn’t a very long day out there. It was just a very intense session and a half by Stokes and Bairstow. It was a crazy day of cricket,” Elgar said at the close
The captain, in the process struck a welcome half-century, his 29th in Tests and his first in a year. His last coming against the West Indies in the New Years Test here in 2015 and will resume this morning needing to desperately kick on if the hosts are to stay in this game.