Alex Hales salutes Ben Stokes after late onslaught

Published: Saturday 2nd January 2016 by The News Editor

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Alex Hales admits England’s players are just like fans when their “maverick” all-rounder Ben Stokes gets going.

Stokes grabbed the second Test against South Africa by the scruff of the neck late on day one, thrashing 74 not out in 91 balls to leave his side 317 for five at stumps.

Joined by Jonny Bairstow (39no), Stokes laid into the second new ball as a weary Proteas attack buckled in the final hour, watched by more than 10,000 England fans in Cape Town.

They enjoyed every moment of his boundary-strewn innings, as did the top-order team-mates who made their way to the dressing room balcony for a front-row seat.

“It’s brilliant to see. Stokesy is maverick player, someone who you love to have in your team,” said Hales.

“When he gets going it is brilliant viewing for the whole ground. All our bowlers were snoozing on the physio beds but the batters are straight out there to watch him because it really is exhilarating viewing.”

Stokes had arrived at the crease after two wickets in two balls from Kagiso Rabada left England 167 for four, and was at the other end when Joe Root’s dismissal for 50 opened the door again.

But he found a solid ally in Bairstow, and the pair’s unbroken 94-run stand was the crucial passage of play.

“It was a great finish for us,” assessed Hales.

“The second new ball was going to be a key period and the way Stokesy and Jonny attacked it and took the game back to them probably gave us the upper hand on the day’s play.

“It was evenly poised and could have gone either way but the way they attacked the bowlers on what wasn’t an overly flat wicket was impressive.”

Hales had earlier scored 60 at the top of the innings, a maiden half-century in his third Test innings.

Having managed 10 and 26 in his debut at Durban, he appears to be moving in the right direction despite some edgy moments outside off stump.

“It was nice to get that innings on the board,” he said.

“It’s a new challenge for me in my career and something I’ve loved so far.

“A lot of the public will only have seen me play Twenty20 cricket so I guess I do have that label but opening in the longer formats is very different and something I’ve worked very hard on.”

South Africa’s attack was depleted in the absence of the injured Dale Steyn and Kyle Abbott, but 20-year-old Rabada made his presence felt with three for 74.

The youngster also led the counter-attack off the field, downplaying Stokes’ late assault.

“Stokes was a bit lucky scoring some of his runs,” he said.

“He was in when the ball was a bit harder and it travelled faster. He took his chances, he drove one off Chris Morris that gully wouldn’t have had to move for.

“Bairstow was a bit calmer. Tomorrow we have to keep it tight and knock them over quickly.”

Rabada, playing in his first Test in South Africa after three outings in India, balked at suggestions that the massed ranks of away support effectively handed England home advantage.

“The Barmy Army haven’t been singing that much. I haven’t really felt their presence but I know they’re there,” he said.

“Even if they sing out loud I know we’re at home in our back yard.”

Published: Saturday 2nd January 2016 by The News Editor

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