Return to the success scene but in different circumstances
Cape Town, January 1 (AFP) Ben Stokes returns to the scene of one of his most spectacular performances, but the circumstances are different in the second test between England and South Africa in Newlands on Friday.
Four years ago, Stokes drew 258 of 198 balls in a brutal show of power shots, picking up 11 six and sharing a sixth world record of 399 wicket association with Jonny Bairstow, whose 150 not among 191 balls were just pedestrian.
England entered that match 1-0 in a series of four tests they won. This time they are the team that needs to catch up after losing the initial meeting in Centurion.
South Africa was led by Hashim Amla, who effectively acknowledged his lack of work aptitude by quitting after the game despite making a double century to ensure a high score draw.
On this occasion, England's captain, Joe Root, is under pressure due to the poor recent history of his team away from home.
Stokes was on his way to becoming the talisman of England, a state that he consolidated during 2019, which ended up being awarded an OBE on Britain's New Year honors list.
Bairstow, however, has receded. It seems unlikely that he will play in Newlands this time after failing with one and nine in Centurion, where he only played due to Ollie Pope's illness.
- Bonanza for hitters -
Newlands in 2016 provided an unusually benign tone for batters, with both teams scoring more than 600 in a first inning that only ended late on the fourth day. He is the only one of the 11 most recent test matches in Newlands, since 2011, which ended in a draw.
South Africa won nine of the other ten, losing once. Totals of more than 400 have been rare, with only four instances in addition to the 2016 party. There is a new gardener, but it seems reasonable to expect fair competition between bat and ball this time.
After winning the first test at Centurion for 107 runs, South Africa is likely to make a forced change with the opening batter Pieter Malan, who is expected to win his first cap instead of the injured Aiden Markram.
England chose to enter the first test without a spinner, but Newlands is a field where spinning players are usually needed. It is a dilemma for England, since Jack Leach has been sick practically since the arrival of the team. Although it is now reported that he is recovering and is out of quarantine, it is unlikely to be considered compatible.
Matt Parkinson, who spun his legs, did not impress in two warm-up matches and Dom Bess, out of spinner, flown on hold due to illness at the camp, could be selected, possibly ahead of veteran fast bowler James Anderson .
England's most powerful fast bowler, Jofra Archer, did not play during the net practice in Newlands on Wednesday due to a pain in his right elbow, although he was able to hit and participate in field exercises, according to a team spokesman.
South Africa: Faf du Plessis (captain), Dean Elgar, Pieter Malan, Zubayr Hamza, Rassie van der Dussen, Quinton de Kock (wkt), Dwaine Pretorius, Vernon Philander, Keshav Maharaj, Kagiso Rabada, Anrich Nortje
England: Joe Root (captain), Rory Burns, Dom Sibley, Joe Denly, Ben Stokes, Ollie Pope, Jos Buttler (wkt), Sam Curran, Dom Bess, Jofra Archer, Stuart Broad
Referees: Kumar Dharmasena (SRI), Paul Reiffel (AUS)
TV Referee: Chris Gaffaney (NZL) Referee of the match: Andy Pycroft (ZIM). AFP SSC SSC