Cape Town: Ben Stokes gave his wicket away three runs short of a half-century to start off another England batting collapse on the opening day of the second Test against South Africa on Friday.
Stokes spooned a catch to mid-off on 47 and England went from 185-4 to 262-9 at stumps to take little reward from winning the toss and batting first at Newlands.
The collapse followed similar slumps in the first Test, when the tourists lost 7-39 in the first innings and 7-64 in the second to lose the series opener by 107 runs.
Ollie Pope resisted to stumps with his 56 not out and last-man James Anderson was with him on 3 not out. They had clung on at the end of the day to add valuable runs after England were reduced to 234-9 when Stuart Broad's stumps were rearranged by a yorker from quick bowler Kagiso Rabada.
Stokes, who made a career-best 258 at record pace on his last visit to Newlands four years ago, appeared to have momentarily swung the momentum of the opening day with his six fours and a six in a 58-run stand with Pope.
The thousands of England fans who poured into Newlands for South Africa's marquee New Year Test hoped so.
But the star all-rounder hit a half-volley straight to Dean Elgar off the bowling of Anrich Nortje, then rested his head against his bat in frustration before walking off.
Stokes wasn't the only one to miss out.
Five of England's top seven batsmen made promising starts in the Cape Town sunshine but didn't follow through: Dom Sibley was out for 34, Joe Denly for 38, captain Joe Root for 35, Stokes for his 47 and Jos Buttler for a quickfire 29 off 27 balls — exciting but not what England needed.
Opener Zak Crawley, rushed into the team as an injury replacement for Rory Burns, was the first man out for 4 and England were often under pressure on the opening day except for periods when Denly and Sibley, and then Stokes and Pope, were together.
England's on-field struggles in South Africa have mirrored its battles off the field. As many as 11 players in the squad were affected by a flu-like illness before and during the first Test in Centurion, which the tourists lost by 107 runs in four days. There was no better luck for England in Cape Town when fast bowler Jofra Archer and opening batsman Burns were injured in training ahead of the second Test and ruled out of the game.
Burns, England's best batsman in the first Test, damaged ligaments in his left ankle playing football in a warm-up drill and was out of the rest of the series and on a plane home for treatment.
Crawley, with just one Test appearance before Friday, was rushed into the team in his place and lasted three overs before edging behind to Vernon Philander.
England's top three — Crawley, Sibley and Denly — have only 15 Test appearances between them.
South Africa's front-line pace pair of Philander and Rabada had two wickets each but newcomer Nortje continued to be the Proteas' breakthrough bowler.
He removed Root via a fierce bouncer that flew off the England skipper's gloves to wicket-keeper Quinton de Kock. The South Africans celebrated with gusto, with Root having been dropped by Rassie van der Dussen at first slip earlier in the over. Root walked as the South Africans went up for the appeal.
Nortje also picked up the precious wicket of Stokes.
Pope, who missed the first Test with illness, showed impressive resolve on a day when England were hoping to put its struggles behind it after winning the toss on what looked like a batting-friendly pitch.
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