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England make case to win Test series as Rabada faces ban

At close of day two, third Test: South Africa 60/2, England 499/9d

BEN STOKES and Ollie Pope made centuries on Friday to hammer a South Africa team already hit by a ban levied on its star bowler Kagiso Rabada.

England took control on a potentially decisive second day as Stokes made 120 in Port Elizabeth, Pope went 135 not out for his maiden Test century and England surged to 499-9 declared.

Play closed with the Proteas on 60 for two and the tourists, with star all-rounder Stokes leading the charge once again, in a commanding position in the level series.

The England players were buoyant at the close of play despite the day’s rain delays, with Pope saying: “We have definitely got the firepower to take 20 wickets in this match and hopefully the weather can hold off.”

South Africa laboured all day and were burdened by the blow of fast bowler Kagiso Rabada being banned for the series-deciding fourth and final Test in Johannesburg next week.

The ban was announced on Friday morning, a punishment for the bowler’s provocative celebration in the face of England captain Joe Root on the first day of the Test at St George’s Park.

Rabada charged down the wicket after clean bowling the England captain on day one of the third Test, stopping just in front of him as he pumped his fists and shouted in celebration.

Zimbabwean official Andy Pycroft charged the bowler with a level-one breach of the International Cricket Council’s disciplinary code relating to “using language, actions or gestures which disparage or which could provoke an aggressive reaction from a batter upon his or her dismissal during an international match.”

Rabada was fined 15 per cent of his match fee and picked up a demerit point — taking his tally to the threshold of four in a two-year period.

He accepted the charge and will now miss out on next week’s clash at the Wanderers in Johannesburg.

Some pundits were unimpressed, with former England captain Michael Vaughan tweeting on Friday: “Rabada getting a one game ban for celebrating taking the wicket of the opponent’s best player is absolutely bonkers. Over rates & slow play, nothing gets done. Celebrate a wicket and you are banned. The world is bloody nuts.”

With news of the ban hanging over them, the South Africans appeared completely deflated on the field and Stokes and Pope took full advantage on a pitch that’s pretty tough for bowlers anyway. 

Stokes and Pope took their careful 76-run partnership overnight to an unbroken and flourishing stand of 187 by lunch. They put on a mammoth 203 for the fifth wicket by the time Stokes hit a square drive to be caught by Dean Elgar after lunch and give Dane Paterson a first Test wicket on his debut for South Africa.

Stokes, voted the world’s player of the year this week, played cautiously at the end of the first day to consolidate England’s promising position but was in complete attack mode on day two.

He lashed 12 fours and two sixes in all as he charged to a ninth Test century. Three of those hundreds have come in the last five months and Stokes continued to punish South Africa on this tour.

Stokes also had strong support from Pope in Port Elizabeth and the latter went on to a big century after Stokes’s exit.

England’s 499-9 declared is the fourth highest total ever in a Test at St. George’s and the second best by a visiting team.

England, 224-4 overnight, added 111 runs in first session, another 91 after lunch and were rampant in scoring 73 runs for the last wicket in just over eight overs before the declaration.

Rabada, who was South Africa’s best bowler on the first day, took no wickets on the second, leaving left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj to lead the struggling and dispirited home attack with 5-180.

On a miserable day for him, Rabada had Mark Wood out caught just before the end but was pulled up for a no-ball.

South Africa made good early progress with the bat, reaching 50 before Pieter Malan was caught and bowled by Dominic Bess to depart for 18.

And after Wood’s pace had caused South Africa problems, Pope capped an outstanding day when he caught Zubayr Hamza off the bowling of Bess before rain stopped play.

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