South Africa v England: Joe Root and Ben Stokes turn tide

By Stephan ShemiltBBC Sport
Joe Root
Joe Root made his ninth Test century and first against South Africa
Third Test, Johannesburg (day two)
South Africa 313: Elgar 46, Stokes 3-53
England 238-5: Root 106*, Stokes 58

England's Joe Root scored a dazzling century to reverse the momentum of the third Test after South Africa looked set to take control in Johannesburg.

Replying to the Proteas' 313, England were wobbling at 22-2 and 91-4.

But Root combined with Ben Stokes to counter-attack in a fifth-wicket stand of 111 made at a rate of seven an over.

After Stokes fell for 58, Root moved to three figures and was 106 not out when bad light and rain ended day two 80 minutes early with England 238-5.

What made the effort of Root and Stokes all the more outstanding was its contrast to the rest of the England batting, as the majority of the top order struggled on a lively pitch against a hostile South Africa attack.

As England teetered, they responded by flaying the Proteas to all parts of the Bullring to give the tourists, 1-0 up in the four-match series, every chance of earning a first-innings lead.

More on the third Test...
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Fight fire with fire

When James Taylor inside-edged Morne Morkel to short leg, England were 222 behind with six first-innings wickets remaining in conditions that seemed perilous for batting.

Joes Root reflects on superb century

Stokes was almost hit on the jaw by Morkel from the second ball he faced, but when he hooked his fifth ball from Kagiso Rabada for six, it began an exhilarating passage of play.

The South Africa bowlers, previously rampant, were left short of ideas, just as they were when Stokes plundered 258 in the second Test in Cape Town.

Root scored all around, with cuts, pulls and some flowing straight drives, while Stokes whipped off his pads, slashed through third man and played one disdainful lofted drive off Morkel that encapsulated England's dominance.

Morkel would have his revenge, holding Stokes' leading edge off his own bowling, but Root completed his century with a wonderful cover drive and had added 36 with Jonny Bairstow at more than five an over when the weather intervened.

Joe Root
Root was limping for some of his innings and needed treatment on his left leg

"It's been a masterclass"

Former England captain Michael Vaughan: "It's been a masterclass in how to grab control of a situation and change the course of a Test match in an hour and a half. The South African attack were looking at each other as if they were wondering who wanted to bowl.

"There's not many teams who can play like this. There's a bit of genius about it. Ben Stokes has got a Gilchrist and Sobers-like ability to change a match."

Former South Africa captain Graeme Smith: "What a knock from Joe Root. He's looked a class above on this surface, with energy and intensity. He's pounced on anything loose."

Ex-England batsman Geoffrey Boycott: "At times England were scoring 10 an over. Stokes is a game-changer. And at the opposite end, Root was playing magnificently. He's got the lot and batted beautifully."

England batsman Joe Root: "I'm very pleased at the moment but you'll have to ask to me at the end of the game to get a true reflection on it. Any sort of lead will be important because it will be close encounter. Whether that be 50, 100 or 20, edging in front is our goal."

Eoin Morgan tweetMark Ramprakash tweet

Hail Hardus

Hardus Viljoen
Hardus Viljoen is only the third South African to take a wicket with his first ball in Test cricket

That England were in peril was partly down to the imposing presence of Hardus Viljoen, the towering pace bowler on debut.

Viljoen had Alastair Cook caught down the leg side from his very first delivery in Test cricket, becoming only the 20th bowler in the history of the game to strike with his first ball.external-link

Not only that, but Viljoen hit the first ball he faced with the bat for four. New Zealander Matt Henderson, against England in 1930, is the only other Test cricketer to complete such a double.

Viljoen was 20 not out when Morkel was the last to fall, edging Stokes to first slip. That too was Stokes' first delivery after coming on midway through an over because James Anderson had to be removed from the attack after running on the pitch.

England's wobble

James Taylor
At one point, James Taylor's bat was travelling further than the ball

Viljoen's dismissal of Cook came as both England openers fell cheaply and in familiar circumstances.

Alex Hales slashed Rabada to second slip with a flat-footed drive, while Cook's edge down the leg side, often seen as unlucky, is happening often enough to suggest the captain might have a problem.

Nick Compton was dropped at second slip on six but edged Rabada to the same place 20 runs later, while Taylor bat-padded Morkel to be well held by Temba Bavuma.

England were in danger of being rolled over. Then came the Root and Stokes blitz.

The stats

  • Ben Stokes took his 50th wicket in his 22nd Test, having already reached 1,000 runs. Ian Botham took 21 Tests to do that double. The record is 15 matches by South Africa's Aubrey Faulkner, who played in the early 1900s.
  • South Africa's total of 313 is the lowest in Test history when every batsmen has reached double figures.
  • It is also the first time that all 11 batsmen have reached double figures but none have made a half-century.
  • Jonny Bairstow took six wicketkeeping victims in the South Africa innings. The world record is seven, jointly held by four men, including England's Bob Taylor.

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