The 24-year-old simply brutalised South Africa’s bowling attack, striking 30 fours and 11 sixes – the latter the most by an English batsman – as Alastair Cook’s side posted 629 for six declared on the second day of the second Test.
Stokes shared a world-record sixth-wicket partnership of 399 with Jonny Bairstow, who himself made his maiden Test century in scoring an unbeaten 150, and claimed a wicket with the ball as the hosts reached 141 for two at stumps in a total state of shock.
“I will probably never play like this ever again in my life,” said Stokes. “But I’ve done it once, so at least I can say that. I was trying to hit as many boundaries as I could because it was too hot to run.
“I wasn’t thinking of any landmarks as I went along. It’s a cliche but I would rather be involved in a winning team than have good figures. It hasn’t really sunk in yet. Out there emotions were running high and there was quite a lot of adrenaline but at this moment in time I’m pretty tired. It hasn’t all sunk in yet but sure will in a couple of days time.”
Stokes certainly flew out of the traps first thing, resuming on 74 not out, with England 317 for five, and needing just 12 deliveries to reach his third Test hundred in a flurry of boundaries.
His total of 130 runs in the first session was also the most scored by a Test batsman before lunch in a Test match – surpassing Les Ames’ 123 against South Africa in 1935 – as he and Bairstow added 196 in the space of 25 overs before the interval, an England record.
Stokes said: “Cook told me to get myself in at the start of the day but I just thought there were enough balls to throw my hands through. I didn’t want to hang around and nudge to 100, because I’d be a little bit annoyed if I took the more selfish route of getting there.
“He who dares is probably the best way to describe it. When I looked at the board, we had a lot runs and I thought we were in a good position anyway. So I just tried to chance my arm because I thought me slogging one up in the air wouldn’t hurt too much.”
After lunch, the pair ploughed on to the fastest ever 300-run partnership in 46.4 overs, with Stokes’s 250 – brought up with his penultimate six pulled over deep square leg – also the quickest of all time, coming from 196 balls.
Bairstow was more measured at the other end, bringing up his first Test hundred from 161 balls for an emotional celebration two days out from the 18th anniversary of the death of his father, the former Yorkshire and England wicketkeeper David Bairstow.
He said: “It’s probably the best day of my life, I reckon. My mum was up there in one of the boxes, my sister as well, it’s a special day for all family – both here and up there.
“There were a lot of things building up through the last couple of years, my grandpa passing away last year and Dad, it’s the anniversary of [his death] that coming up as well, so I’m absolutely delighted to score it in this New Year’s Test match at such an iconic venue.”
Stokes added: “People won’t speak of Jonny’s knock, but the way he played his natural game was amazing. Jonny has worked really hard on how to play quick bowling. I’m buzzing for him.”
Stokes, who was eventually run out by a direct hit from AB de Villiers, recovering from his own drop at mid-on, was also pleased to bring some cheer to those affected in his home town of Cockermouth in Cumbria following the recent flooding in the area.
He added: “Cockermouth has been through this three or four times now. I grew up there as a kid, I went to school, spent a lot of time there and still got really good mates there. They are going through a really big rebuilding stage around the whole town so it’s nice to know I’ve been able to put a few smiles on some faces who have probably had a tougher time than what I am out here.”
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