Ben Stokes bowled England to an epic fifth-day victory in the second Test at Cape Town, edging a compelling battle of wills with a defiant South Africa.
Stokes claimed the last three wickets in the space of 14 deliveries deep into the concluding session of the match as England wrapped up a 189-run win.
Not only was it a first success for England at the famous Newlands ground since 1957, it was also an outstanding advert for the long-form story-telling that is five-day Test cricket – a format at this very moment in danger of being curtailed by administrators.
Starting the day chasing eight wickets to square the series at 1-1, Joe Root’s side still needed five after tea as the Proteas dug deep on a passive surface.
At various stages it seemed a doomed pursuit in sapping heat.
But the tourists rallied triumphantly at the death with Stokes blowing away Dwaine Pretorius and Anrich Nortje with consecutive balls, then finishing off last man Vernon Philander with 8.2 overs remaining.
Allied to his six catches at second slip – a joint England record among non-wicketkeepers – and the swashbuckling 72 which bought England time in the second innings, and this completed yet another remarkable chapter for the sport’s hero of the hour.
England bowler Stuart Broad said his side’s victory, played out in front of thousands of their travelling fans in Cape Town, felt “very special”.
“The crowd has been exceptional today, an incredible day’s play and a great Test match actually,” said Broad.
“We had to work incredibly hard. We knew we were going to have to do that from yesterday’s play – incredible discipline from South Africa throughout the day.
“But we kept saying, ‘One bit of magic. Let’s try some funky fields. One breakthrough and we can apply some pressure’.”
Broad was full of praise for Stokes following his brilliant late spell with the ball and also the team’s all-round fielding display.
“Stokesy’s finish and the catching towards the end is something we’ve worked a lot towards,” Broad added. “We’re very proud of the standard of taking our chances and the character we’ve shown throughout the Test match.
“The pitch slowed down a lot and we had to get a bit more creative.”