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Ben Stokes takes centre stage again as England pile on the runs

Stokes and Ollie Pope’s partnership lasted throughout the morning session.

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Ben Stokes struck a century for England (Michael Sheehan/AP)

Ben Stokes struck a century for England (Michael Sheehan/AP)

Ben Stokes struck a century for England (Michael Sheehan/AP)

Ben Stokes continued his irrepressible run of form with a dominant century as he and Ollie Pope handed England full control of the third Test against South Africa in Port Elizabeth.

The newly-crowned world player of the year, fresh from bowling England to victory in Cape Town, slugged his way to 108 not out as the tourists reached 335 for four at lunch on day two.

He scored 70 from 105 balls in the morning session, with Pope matching his own career-best score of 75 as the pair took their unbroken stand to 187.

South Africa, having scrapped hard on an unhelpful pitch on day one, saw the game slipping away from them as they shipped 111 runs without success in two dispiriting hours.

After a 45-minute rain delay England resumed marginally in front on 224 for four, Stokes and Pope on 38 and 39 respectively. Any pretence of an even contest between bat and ball was swiftly put to bed as the duo piled on 72 runs in the first hour. Pope looked stylish and composed as he brought his third half-century for England, but Stokes was in domineering mood.

He pipped Pope to the fifty, standing tall and crashing Kagiso Rabada for two pulled fours in an over and set about the task of bullying left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj.

He had brought consistency and control on day one but found Stokes in unforgiving mood, conceding 12 in his first over – including a slog-swept six. His next visit brought four leg-byes and an even bigger hit from Stokes, clearing not only the ropes but the ground’s perimeter fence.

Having brought up their hundred stand in 185 deliveries, the fifth-wicket pair scored their next 50 at better than a run-per-ball. The checkpoints kept coming as South African heads dropped, first England’s 300 and then Stokes’ 4,000th Test run, courtesy of another muscular hit off Maharaj.

Stokes moved to 99 with a chop for two to third man and then stroked Dane Paterson for a single to get over the line, celebrating by removing his glove and making a hand gesture in recognition to his father Ged, who remains hospitalised in Johannesburg.

Pope was given lbw to the next delivery but Paterson saw what would have been his first Test wicket chalked off when the batsman’s review showed the ball missing leg stump.

PA