Ben Stokes describes Oval century as the hardest of his England career

Vernon Philander

As the tourists bid to build on last week's success at Trent Bridge, which levelled this summer's score at 1-1 with two to play, softly-spoken Amla was in no mood to divert from his reputation for letting his bat do his talking. South Africa's gamble had failed. Cook is to score a century in the first innings with Stokes, Jonny Bairstow and Moeen Ali. Root confirmed the fast bowler's absence and spelled out why Roland-Jones can be an effective deputy.

It does not look almost as impressive as the first two sets of numbers but it was good enough to beat Ben Stokes four times, three in his last over.

Resuming on 21 with England four down, he showed such maturity and skill against different challenges against the old and new ball and with different partners - at times circumspect, at others hostile.

Stokes's performance, which had echoes of his incredible double hundred against the South Africans in Cape Town a year ago, saw him pass 2,000 runs in tests.

Rabada, back following a one-match ban for swearing at Ben Stokes, said: "We bowled well today and there was a lot on offer for the bowlers".

BEN STOKES has taken issue with accusations of a lack of "fight" that he believes were unfairly directed at England after their 340-run defeat against South Africa in the second Investec Test.

Rain was the main victor on the first day of the third test between England and South Africa as England limped to 171-4 in the face of a persistent and disciplined South African seam attack. The next over, from Morne Morkel, silenced Stokes as he launched the bowler high to Kagiso Rabada, running in from long off. "Yesterday he went past the bat on numerous occasions; you miss his control". Batting was a concern for South Africa before the series began, but dropping Duminy has ensured that they possess quality right down to number 8 after some consistency from the top order.

Alastair Cook stood firm for England once again on the first day against South Africa at the Oval - and Bob Willis expects the opener to carry on in that vein for years and years... Given the role he plays with the ball, his promotion to No.7 in the line-up and the reserve options in South Africa's squad - specialist batsmen Theunis de Bruyn and Aiden Markram and uncapped young allrounder Andile Phehlukwayo - they could not replace Philander so when they were instructed to field, they hoped for the best and the best was four overs, initially.

Stokes had stood so far outside his crease against Philander, to negate his movement, that one half expected him to follow Philander into the dressing room and take guard. The plan almost paid off but after taking a catch at long-on, Du Plessis fell into the boundary rope.

If the batsman can take any crumb of comfort, it is that ball would have got pretty much everyone out. Morris found so much swing from the Dukes ball that he was unable to control it: he was one player, on this evidence, who did not benefit from South Africa's decision to rest between Nottingham and The Oval rather than request a further three-day match against county opposition.


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