Cape Town - Alastair Cook scored his 51st first-class century as England took full advantage of the conditions to put in some invaluable middle batting time on the second day of the three-day match against South Africa A at the Maritzburg Oval on Monday.
The match has continued to follow the exact path that England would have wanted it to do as all their major batsmen got into double figures as they cruised to 414/6 declared in 97.5 overs for an overall lead of 278 runs.
Cook (126 off 194 balls, 16 fours and 2 sixes) and Alex Hales (56 off 102 balls, 9 fours) put on 112 for the first wicket in 34 overs, Cook and Nick Compton a further 66 for the second, Cook and Joe Root 62 for the third, and Root and James Taylor another 50 for the fourth.
Root became the second centurion of the innings (117 off 125 balls, 16 fours and 2 sixes) while Ben Stokes scored a quick-fire 66 (47 balls, 8 fours and 2 sixes).
It was hard work for the South African bowlers who got less assistance out of the pitch than had been available on the first day. Keshav Maharaj, flighting his left-arm spin cleverly, blocked up the one end while the seamers rotated from the end which had provided greater bounce throughout the match.
Maharaj claimed three of England’s top wickets – Cook, Compton and Taylor – taking 3/97 in 23 overs before the second new ball became available and they were all well deserved. He later returned to pick up a fourth in Root as England hit out ahead of the declaration to finish with 4/129 in 26.5 overs.
South Africa A were left with 13 overs to bat and lost both opening batsmen, Stephen Cook and Reeza Hendricks, in the 11 overs that were possible in making 35/2.