Cricket

Ben Stokes and England were left frustrated by missed chances against South Africa.

Dropped catches look costly to Ben Stokes and England against South Africa

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Ben Stokes believes England will come to rue another day of dropped catches in the fourth Test against South Africa.

The tourists ended the second evening on 138 for two, 337 adrift after the Proteas run up a formidable total of 475.

And just as Stephen Cook and Hashim Amla took advantage of lapses in the field on day one, Quinton de Kock rode his luck all the way to three figures at Centurion.

On 28 he saw Stokes put down a tough one-handed chance at gully and on 90 Alastair Cook let one slip at short cover.

Ten runs earlier there was an even worse gaffe as De Kock nicked one at perfect catching height only for wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow and Cook, at first slip, to leave it for each other.

And Stokes made no excuses for the mistakes, which had echoes of previous errors in the drawn match at Cape Town.

"We'll look back on this game at the end and realise we let them off the hook massively," said the Durham all-rounder, who took four for 86.

"We were the ones that let them get to the big score that they got.

"Looking back on it we've got to take those chances. In Test cricket good players make you pay and they certainly have done in this innings."

Bairstow's travails are particularly in focus at present.

He has enjoyed a superb series with the bat but poor wicketkeeping has offered South Africa reprieves at important moments in all four Tests.

In this game alone his two drops have cost 117 runs, while he was at least partially at fault for diving in front of Alastair Cook when he grassed Amla on five.

"I know from dropping catches you feel like the whole team's looking at you, you feel like the whole ground's looking at you," said Stokes.

"But it's something you just have to try and get on with.

"Obviously you don't mean to drop them, as everyone says when they do.

"Unfortunately in this innings Jonny didn't manage to take the chances but on another day he could possibly and it would be a completely different ball game.

"There's obviously no grudges held but at the same time there's no going up and saying 'catch the next one' because that's just a cliched thing to say.

"The 11 individuals out there know it's up to us and it's our responsibility to have the mental capability to put things like that behind you. All of us do and Jonny definitely does as well."

Stokes was glad to see his captain emerge from a rocky run of form in the series to date, Cook leading the resistance in the evening session with 67 not out.

That comfortably bettered his previous best of 43 on tour and went down well in the dressing room.

"Cooky's obviously struggled this tour so when he did get that 50 it was almost like he'd got a hundred because we were all so pleased for him," said Stokes.

"It's good to see him back on form and playing the way he has done over the years. Hopefully he can go on and make a big one for us tomorrow."

Cook needs exactly 50 more on Sunday to become the first Englishman, and 12th batsman in history, to make 10,000 Test runs.

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