England rookie scores ‘incredible’ 14-year first
THOSE in the know have been saying for two years that Ollie Pope is something special.
Pope gloriously paraded all the evidence on day two of the third Test against South Africa with a majestic maiden international century, and it will not be his last.
Pope, 22, is now the youngest English cricketer to score a Test century since Alastair Cook's maiden ton in 2006.
He is stylish, appears to have so much time to play the ball and possesses a full range of classic shots, plus a few unorthodox ones, and he has a calm, cool, calculating head.
The Two Popes might currently be a multi-award nominated movie but, when it comes to batting, England now have The One Pope.
The 22-year-old could be a permanent fixture in England's middle-order for a decade. In fact, Pope is a virtual willow-wielding duplicate of former English player Ian Bell.
He even has ginger hair.
Pope is also the eighth-youngest male to score a Test century for England. The names above him are a who's who of legends - including Denis Compton, Len Hutton, Peter May, Colin Cowdrey, David Gower and Cook.
Ben Stokes and Pope put on 203 for the fifth wicket, guiding the visitors to a mammoth first innings total of 9/499 declared.
It’s easy to get carried away about young talent but Ollie Pope’s fusion of a classical technique with new-age scoring options (those ramps off Rabada) is rare. Perhaps only Ben Stokes & Kevin Pietersen have managed it for a sustained period at Test level for England. #SAvENG— Freddie Wilde (@fwildecricket) January 17, 2020
Ollie Pope is some player. Incredible array of shots in his locker.— Dan Cancian (@dan_cancian) January 17, 2020
Ollie Pope!! That was class to watch. His first test century of what will inevitably be many 🏏 🏴— Sophie Barley (@SophieBarley) January 17, 2020
England have found a gem in Ollie Pope, special talent! 💯 #SAvENG— Tom Moody (@TomMoodyCricket) January 17, 2020
ROOT DECLARES TWICE
Captain Joe Root accidentally declared twice during England's first innings at Port Elizabeth.
Root waved in the players at 9-467 when Mark Wood skied a catch, but replays showed South Africa's Kasigo Rabada had overstepped, so he beckoned his batsmen out for a few more swings of the blade.
It could only be described as a rare case of a captain un-declaring.
It was not the happiest day for Rabada, who will be badly missed by the Proteas in the next Test at Johannesburg after a suffering a ban for his aggressive celebration on Friday.
Stokes was impressive too, as you would expect from a player intent on making this year almost as memorable as his annus mirabilis in 2019.
He scored his ninth Test century, went past 4000 Test runs and took another stride towards all-time great status.
By the close, South Africa had reached 2-60 in their first innings with spinner Dom Bess snaring both wickets - Pieter Malan caught and bowled and Zubayr Hamza held at short leg.
Wood inflicted plenty of pain with a nasty blow to opener Dean Elgar's left arm and he made Hamza leap around before he fell at the other end.
South Africa trail by 439 runs heading into day three commences on Saturday.
Originally published in The Sun and republished with permission