Box Office Big Ben

On the 3rd of January, 2016, on the second day of one of the two first Test Matches for the calendar year, the crowd at Newlands in South Africa experienced a four-hour long “I was there” moment. These moments come along very rarely in Test Cricket. Personally, my time came on a dusty winter-ish day back in 2009 at the Brabourne stadium in Mumbai, when Virender Sehwag looted the hapless Sri Lankan bowlers for 283 runs in less than three sessions on Day 2 of the Test that elevated India to the No. 1 ranking. He eventually fell for 293 on the next morning, but many present that day will remember how he didn’t bat for more than 12 balls without crossing or clearing the boundary. Murali Vijay had given him good company at the other end – the same way Johnny Bairstow, England’s on-off wicketkeeper in Tests, “supported” Ben Stokes during a 399-run partnership against the No. 1-ranked South African side on their own soil. Bairstow finished unbeaten at 150, while Stokes plundered 258 of the most violent, hard-hitting, clean and ruthless runs off a South African attack that seemed to have gone into sleep-mode, a familiar state, which they had last succumbed to in 2006 during Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene’s inhuman 624-run partnership in Sri Lanka. 

South Africa are already 1-0 down in the series, and unless Hashim Amla and AB De Villiers pull off a miracle against the run of form, confidence and play, they are in grave danger of losing their second successive series as well as the No. 1 ranking – which is more of an inevitability though. 

Stokes and Bairstow, both ginger-haired all-rounders of sorts, broke all kinds of records on the Newlands morning after they came together when the score was in the 220s. England finished at 629-6, after Stokes was run out and Bairstow reached his 150. 
Let us take a look at the numbers that fell on the fateful day:
  130: Runs scored by Stokes on the first session of Day 2. This is the most by any batsman ever in the first session of a day in Test cricket. 
  130.3: Strike rate of Stokes’ 258 (198), second only to Nathan Astle’s miraculous 222 (168) against England back in 2002.
 125: Number of Indian fans (in lakhs) praying for Stokes to get out before 300, lest he break the beloved Virender Sehwag’s record of the fastest triple century in Test cricket. 
  163: Number of balls it took for Stokes to reach 200, the second fastest in Tests after Astle’s 153. 
 160: Number of people present at Ravi Shastri’s impromptu house party, once he discovered that he was the sole reason behind South Africa’s sudden dip in form and confidence. 
 140: Number of Gujarati sexagenarians that tuned in to Stokes’ innings, assuming it to be a program featuring a ‘Ben’ on a hot streak. 
    11: Number of sixes by Stokes in his innings, second only to Wasim Akram’s 12 in his 257 against Zimbabwe. 
    11: Number of disgruntled humans on the field during his innings.
1058: Number of runs Stokes would have scored at this rate, if he batted for as long as Alastair Cook batted during his 264 in Sharjah in 2015. 
  408: Number of runs scored by no. 6 and no. 7, the highest for these two positions ever in Tests, at a run rate of 6.91. 
  389: Number of days since South Africa last won a Test match (v/s West Indies in 2015), followed by a drawn 0-0 series against Bangladesh, 3-0 loss against India.
   17.5: Hashim Amla’s average in his last 18 international innings, in both Tests and ODIs.
  175: The minimum Amla must score at Newlands in order to make his team competitive again and avoid the follow-on. 
      0.175: The probability of R. Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja ever playing in Newlands on a flat pitch at their peak. 


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