Pope gives sputtering England a late lift
Ollie Pope gave England's travelling fans something to cheer about late on an otherwise disappointing first day of the second Test for England against South Africa at Newlands on Friday.
"I've never had that many people chant my name like that," said Pope.
Pope made 56 not out in an England total of 262 for nine on a day when the tourists, 1-0 down in the four-match series, failed to take advantage of what looked like a good batting pitch. He gave the total some respectability â€“ and earned the cheers of English supporters, who probably made up half of a capacity crowd.
But South African seam bowler Dwaine Pretorius said he felt England were around 70 runs short of a par total.
Before Pope prospered in a unbeaten last wicket stand of 28 with James Anderson, six England batsmen perished for scores between 29 and 47.
It was a tribute to the pressure exerted by the South African bowlers, who shared the wickets. Vernon Philander, Kagiso Rabada, Anrich Nortje and Pretorius took two each, while left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj kept a tight rein on the batsmen while sending down 27 overs and taking one for 68.
South Africa thought they had completed a highly satisfactory day when Pope was caught at long leg by Philander off Rabada shortly before the close with the total on 261 â€“ but a review by the umpires showed that Rabada had sent down a no-ball.
The day after turning 22, Pope, who missed Englandâ€™s 107-run defeat in the first Test in Centurion because of illness, played a composed innings and shared a 58-run fifth wicket partnership with Ben Stokes which threatened to break the South African stranglehold.
Stokes reached 47 on the ground where he made a career-best 258 four years ago and was striking the ball crisply before he hit an awkward drive against the pace of Nortje and was caught at cover. He threw his head back in dismay before walking back to the dressing room.
"It was frustrating," said Pope. "Ben was finding a nice rhythm to his batting when he got out. It was definitely a missed opportunity."
- 'Bit of nip' -
Pope said that, although it was a good pitch, there was some help for the bowlers.
"There's definitely a little bit in it for the seamers," he said. "Even with the old ball there was a bit of nip."
The innings changed dramatically as Jos Buttler and Sam Curran fell to Pretorius before the second new ball was taken. Then Dom Bess and Stuart Broad were dismissed in the first two overs with the new ball. From 185 for four England were 234 for nine.
"It was hard work getting wickets but our discipline allowed us to strike at the right times," said Pretorius, who took two for 26 in 11 overs with a parsimonious display of accurate seam bowling.
Pretorius said South Africa's seamers worked well as a combination.
"We've got two guys who can bowl at 150 (kilometres an hour) and two who can bowl accurately. I've got the great privilege of bowling with Anna (Nortje) who is bowling with serious pace."
England's struggles were epitomised by captain Joe Root. He had an escape with his score on 31 when a flying edge off Nortje burst through first slip Rassie van der Dussen's hands and went for four runs.
But two balls later Root ducked into a fast bouncer from Nortje and gloved the ball to wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock.
Nortje again bowled at high pace and was the most threatening of the South African bowlers, dismissing England's two best batsmen, while De Kock had another good day behind the stumps, holding five catches.