Ben Stokes and James Taylor helped themselves to hundreds on the first day of England’s opening tour match against a South African Invitational XI.
Both retired, having proved far too good for their hosts, Stokes bludgeoning his way to 158 and Taylor compiling a stylish 114 as England piled on 470 for seven.
Stokes was brutal in his treatment of the bowling, striking 23 fours and five sixes, swinging hard and often enough to suggest he is now fully recovered from his recent shoulder injury. For Taylor it was a simple reassertion of the credentials that saw him recalled to the Test team for the last match against Pakistan.
Elsewhere there was a low key but important 58 from Nick Compton at No 3, the kind of watchful innings he has been recalled to provide after a two-and-a-half-year absence.
Gary Ballance, who will be added to the original XI alongside James Anderson in the next two days, will have seen enough to know Compton is at least a step ahead in the race to replace Ian Bell at first drop.
It was not all rosy for the tourists, who were 56 for three after the first hour. Alastair Cook’s early exit, lbw to Thandolwethu Mnyaka, is no great cause for alarm but Alex Hales – his eighth partner since Andrew Strauss – will be disappointed.
The Nottinghamshire man lasted just 10 deliveries, including a nick over the slips, and lost his off stump to Junior Dala offering no stroke.
Having seen the openers falter, the confident Joe Root scored 28 runs entirely in boundaries before fencing at Andile Phehlukwayo.
As drinks were taken, England might have considered themselves in a spot of bother.
But Compton proved a safe pair of hands and Taylor joined him to ease the score to 90 for three at lunch. Compton was dropped on 49 and added nine more to his tally before being pinned lbw on the back foot.
Stokes was next in at six and, with Taylor reaching an untroubled half-century, the duo lifted the game into a new gear.
Stokes asserted himself at the crease with a flurry of muscular strokes and, by tea, England were 235 for four with Stokes already on 43 and Taylor having heaved Ruben Claassen’s gentle spin for the first six of the day.
Stokes reached 50 with a dismissive pull over the midwicket ropes and from there treated the bowling with near contempt. It took him a mere 38 deliveries to convert his half-century into a full one, with 10 fours along the way.
Taylor had already beaten him to 100 and he retired to allow Jonny Bairstow a hit.
Stokes added maximums off Mnyaka, Johannes Diseko and Aiden Markram as he romped towards a second retirement.
Bairstow managed 35 before Mnyaka shot one through his defence to pick up his third scalp of the day, with Moeen Ali closing unbeaten on 33.