Alastair Cook is closing in on yet another first-class century.

Alex Hales and Alastair Cook score fifties as England continue to dominate

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Alex Hales and Alastair Cook chalked off their first half-centuries in South Africa as England's Test preparations continued to fall into place on day two in Pietermaritzburg.

The opening pair put on 112 before Hales fell for 56, and Cook carried on to 87 not out to lead his side to 169 for one at lunch.

With Steven Finn's four-wicket showing apparently settling the third seamer dilemma, and dismissing the hosts for 136, England's priority was to see Hales settle into his work at the top of the order.

He doubled his overnight score of 28, playing convincingly against a strong attack, but will be disappointed at the manner of his departure.

He lost his off stump to Dane Paterson offering no stroke, having made a similar misjudgement in his first innings of the trip.

At this stage he, and the management, will be happier with his runs than concerned about his exit but the Proteas will surely have taken note ahead of the Boxing Day Test at Durban.

Cook had managed scores of two and 37 in the first warm-up in Potchefstroom but although there were no concerns over his form, the captain will have benefited from his time in the middle.

He passed 50 in 82 balls, four fewer than Hales, and dealt confidently with internationals Marchant De Lange and Chris Morris.

The duo are a class above the usual tour match fare but could not penetrate Cook's defences.

He was also ready to attack, cutting and pulling when the length allowed, before slog-sweeping spinner Keshav Maharaj for six.

Nick Compton joined him in another profitable stand before the interval, wearing one awkward blow from De Lange but otherwise in full control.

Compton had 26 by the break, from a stand worth 57.

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