Joe Root won a huge toss on the first day of the second Test at Cape Town. It was a hard deck at Newlands, where the South Africans pacers shone to put the visitors on the back-foot, but still, England could realize that this deck would require the test of resilience on the final day. The cracks were evident in the final session of Day 1 and hinted that they would play a huge role as the day progresses. But yes, they did not turn out to be that worse and what required was the habit of cutting short the percentage of false shots, which, more often, undermines the test of temperament.

Pieter Malan, Quinton de Kock, and Rassie van der Dussen had taken South Africa into tea interval with five wickets down. The possibility of a draw loomed largely and what required in the final session was resilience. England had that, but South Africa failed to exhibit that. Above all, England had the cocktail of Imran Khan and Ian Botham in their team – Ben Stokes. When the matter is about writing your own fairytales, none can do it better than Stokes at present.

Just when South Africa needed composure like Dom Sibley – whose patient hundred helped England to build in the second innings, de Kock’s brain stopped working – Joe Denly delivered a long-hop, which 10 out of 10 times de Kock would dispatch through the onside, but today he would flay a half-hearted pull-shot at midwicket, where Crawley would cling onto a brilliant catch. It was a trap set to hook the big fish, but none expected that a mere long-hop would do the trick. The epic vigil of 66 runs off 203 balls ended.

Van der Dussen was still there. Joe Root came up with a desperate move from out of the box. James Anderson was placed at leg gully from mid-on. Stuart Broad angled in one and Dussen fell into the trap. The ball went into the hands of Anderson and the English boys sensed victory, but they were running out of overs.

Cometh the hour, cometh the man – Stokes was given the ball to unleash something special. And, it seems, scripting something extraordinary like Imran and Botham, is a day to day job of this lad.

Dwaine Pretorius was about to stitch a defiant resistance along with Vernon Philander. He was hanging around for 21 balls without opening his account – an ideal approach under the circumstances. Stokes pitched one targeting the off and induced edge – Root caught the low catch safely and scooped it up with joy. Anrich Nortje lasted for one ball.

Philander and Kagiso Rabada did not wish to give up, but when Stokes is on song, no resistance is enough to halt the party. A cracking length dashed Philander’s last effort in front of his home crowd. Stokes gifted England another epic moment and surely, he loves playing at Cape Town.

Nevertheless, England owe a lot to Ollie Pope’s effort with the bat in first innings, Anderson and Broad’s bowling display in South Africa’s first innings, Sibley’s epic vigil in England’s second innings. It was a collective effort, which paid rich dividends.

Most importantly, the contest at Cape Town had been a great advertisement for a 5-day Test match. In an ear when the International Cricket Council is planning to cut short Test cricket to 4 days, this Cape Town Test should force them to rethink about their idea. This Test would have been done and dusted if it was a 4-day affair. The drama and tension of the final session would not have been there to enjoy.


In the name of innovation and swelling bank accounts the think-tanks out there are forgetting that Test cricket is always at its very best when played 5 days. It’s not that we have not witnessed 4-day affairs or timeless Tests in the past, but after so many experiments the 5-day Test matches have passed the test of time and should not be tinkered.

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