Pope carves name into English history with century against South Africa

Ollie Pope carved his name into English cricket history when he became the eighth youngest player to score a Test hundred.

And when you take a look at the names of those who beat him to the landmark, already he is keeping exceptional company in just his sixth Test.

At 22 years and 15 days Pope collected 135 not out in an innings of high quality strokeplay combine with a tight unhurried defence to suggest that he and Test cricket will be friends for many years to come.

And by playing his part alongside fellow century maker Ben Stokes in a record-breaking fifth wicket partnership on this ground of 203, Pope provided a glimpse as to why the near future for England's Test team looks even brighter than ginger topped crowns of the right and left handed duo.

England have invested in youth this winter and it is starting to pay off with Pope joining his former Surrey teammate Dom Sibley in registering his maiden Test ton.

And the buzz around Pope is the sort that accompanied Alastair Cook when he made his breakthrough on debut at 21 years and 31 days, or around David Gower when he caressed his first ball in Test cricket for four and made his first hundred aged 21 years and 117 days.

Those two left handers went on to fulfil their potential and then some, scoring 51 Test hundreds between them, and the hopes for Pope are equally ambitious.

His ability to read the game situation and adapt accordingly across six and a half hours is perhaps what marks him out as a level above his peers.

Even at the back end of his innings when he was busy adding 73 in just eight overs with Mark Wood before England declared on 499-9, he was able to either find an unusual boundary himself or give the strike to his big swinging partner against the spinner.


And as if the day hadn't been tough enough Pope reverse flicked Kagiso Rabada for back-to-back fours in outrageous style which perhaps he will be glad to avoid at the Wanderers.

Poor old Rabada, fingered by the umpires for his unnecessarily close celebration of Joe Root's wicket the day before, he had a wicket chalked off when it turned out he had bowled a no-ball.

Not only did it mean Wood could continue his cameo of 42 from 22 balls but it also resulted in what may be the first 'un-delcaration' in Test cricket with Root going back on his decision to call them in.

It was the first time that Root was able to take his team out into the field after batting first with so many runs since they scored 403 in Perth at the end of 2017.

That they finally managed to make it past 400 in the first innings of a Test was as much down to Stokes as it was to Pope, with the best player in the world bringing up his ninth hundred from 174 balls and going on to make 120.

Stokes showed his all round value in Cape Town when he claimed the final three wickets to win the game, but it is as a batsman that he has taken things to another level in the past year.

In fact since the Lord's Test in the summer Stokes has scored 818 runs at an average of 58.42 with three hundreds included.

He leads by example in so many facets of the game, but his batsmanship is truly world class and as long as Root has him in the middle order, anything is possible.

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