Pope gives sputtering England a late lift

CAPE TOWN (AFP) – 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 night.

“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 – 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 – but a review by the umpires showed that Rabada had sent down a no-ball.

The day after turning 22, Pope 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 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.