Ben Stokes hailed the “phenomenal” talent of Ollie Pope after the 22-year-old’s maiden Test century put England in complete control of the third Test against South Africa.
Stokes and Pope both reached three figures during a 203-run third-wicket stand that helped Joe Root’s team to 499 for nine declared in their first innings before South Africa reached the end of a rain-shortened day on 60 for two in reply.
At 22 years and 15 days Pope’s unbeaten 135 meant he became the youngest England player to score a century since Alastair Cook in 2006.
Pope averages 61.14 in first-class cricket and Stokes, whose innings of 120 continued his fine series in South Africa, said of the Surrey batsman: “His record in first-class cricket is phenomenal, but no matter how well you do at that level, you’re always wanting to put in the big performance and score that hundred to know you can play at this level.
“What we’ve seen from Ollie in his short career so far is that he definitely can do it in Test cricket and that makes it an exciting time for him and for the team.”
On his first Test hundred, Pope said: “It was a pretty special moment. Whenever you go up a level you want to tick off that milestone, it makes you feel a bit more at home in the side, a bit more confident in your ability.
“A lot of people chat and say: ‘You can do this, you can do that’ but you’re the one who has got to go and do it. Just knowing I’ve got that first one ticked off is a nice thing. It’s exciting.”
Pope admitted he thought his chance of reaching three figures was gone when he was given out lbw to Dane Paterson on 75 just before lunch. But he reviewed it and was saved when Hawk-Eye showed the ball missing the stumps. “I thought it would be me heading back to the changing rooms to be honest,” he said. “When Stokesy told me to review with two seconds left I thought it was clutching at straws. When we saw the replay and the green and it was a pretty good feeling.”