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HomeSports#sports LAWRENCE BOOTH: Ego-free Ben Foakes plays his role to perfection for England

#sports LAWRENCE BOOTH: Ego-free Ben Foakes plays his role to perfection for England

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#sports activities LAWRENCE BOOTH: Ego-free Ben Foakes plays his role to perfection for England

LAWRENCE BOOTH: Ego-free Ben Foakes plays his role to perfection as he tames the pacemen and dominates the spinners to hit first Test ton for England since 2018 debut

  • Foakes walked out to bat at a vital stage on the second morning of the Test
  • He wanted a couple of runs and confronted the searing tempo of South Africa’s Anrich Nortje 
  • Wicketkeeper confirmed he also can bat a bit too by scoring an unbeaten century

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As Ben Foakes walked out to bat barely half an hour into the second morning of this second LV=Insurance Test, he would have been forgiven for feeling apprehensive.

Pawing the Manchester turf and snorting within the normal course of anybody with a bat, was Anrich Nortje — presumably the world’s quickest bowler, and a person who had twice finished Foakes for tempo at Lord’s for scores of six and nought.

To add to any sense of foreboding, Nortje had simply eliminated Jonny Bairstow, caught at first slip as he fiddled at one which was too fast to enable the standard decision-making course of, and Zak Crawley, whose 101-ball vigil was ended by a magnificence that kissed the sting of a defensive bat.

Ben Foakes banished his recent setbacks by scoring a superb century at Old Trafford

Ben Foakes banished his latest setbacks by scoring an outstanding century at Old Trafford

Another wicket now, and England would have been six down, with Ben Stokes contemporary to the crease and the scores all however degree. On a turning pitch, and with South Africa constructing their gameplan across the collection of two spinners, the benefit might need been theirs.

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Foakes’s progress this summer time has nearly been in a world of its personal — distinct from each the gripping psychodrama of the highest six and the licence-to-swing of the tail. No participant within the aspect has appeared much less clearly impacted by the brand new regime, besides to say that Stokes clearly charges him.

And but it wasn’t unfair to level out that Foakes wanted a couple of runs. He had began the collection in opposition to New Zealand in promising trend, serving to Joe Root full the primary of three massive chases at Lord’s, then including a half-century at Trent Bridge.

Perhaps his most telling achievement was to quieten the controversy a couple of Test return for Jos Buttler. But then Foakes fell away. Thanks to a nasty again and Covid, he even misplaced his place to Sam Billings. Last summer time, he missed out after slipping in his socks within the Oval dressing-room and tearing a hamstring. Was misfortune following him round?

Overjoyed Foakes celebrates with Ollie Robinson after reaching his century on Friday

Overjoyed Foakes celebrates with Ollie Robinson after reaching his century on Friday

With a collection at stake, this was not the second for self-doubt. Foakes acquired going fifth ball with a neat flick via midwicket for three off Nortje, earlier than accumulating a fortunate boundary off Kagiso Rabada through the underside edge.

For some time, the primary function of his innings was decisive footwork in opposition to the spinners, Keshav Maharaj and Simon Harmer. It was nearly a throwback to his maiden Test innings, a century in opposition to Sri Lanka on a turner at Galle in November 2018.

But between that recreation and this, he had been out and in of the aspect, and added solely two fifties in 28 innings — a sequence that would often be glossed over by the enduring excellence of his glovework. In this recreation, his run-saving down the leg aspect has been prime class.

At lunch, Stokes had 34 and Foakes 33. It was the cue for the subsequent section of his innings: second fiddle to a virtuoso efficiency. Of the 96 the pair placed on between lunch and tea, Stokes made 64 off 90 balls and Foakes 28 off 91. It was skilful, ego-free batting, of the sort a captain remembers.

The England wicketkeeper fired a timely reminder that he can also bat bit too

The England wicketkeeper fired a well timed reminder that he also can bat bit too

After Stokes departed for 103, ending a stand of 173, Foakes assumed parental duties for the remainder of the innings. He pulled successive fours off Rabada to transfer to 80 — the primary arguably his shot of the innings — and skipped down the monitor to loft Maharaj over extensive mid-on and transfer to 95.

When the hundred got here, thanks to a back-cut that sped to the boundary beneath Old Trafford’s big pink Point, the bowler was none apart from Nortje, whose trudge again to his mark was now extra hangdog than raging bull.

By the time Jack Leach fell for 11, Foakes had supervised the addition of 95 for the reason that Stokes’s departure, permitting his captain to declare and squeeze in 9 over in opposition to the South African batsmen.

Not since Alec Stewart, Foakes’s director of cricket at Surrey, scored a century right here in opposition to Sri Lanka in 2002 had a wicketkeeper managed a Test hundred in Manchester.

A couple of years in the past, Stewart known as Foakes the very best wicketkeeper on the earth. It was reassuring to be reminded he can bat a bit too.

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