In the process, he completed South Africa’s descent from the finest Test team in the world to a side in a crisis.
In the afternoon, he produced an effort ball to get rid of Dean Elgar and keep England on track for victory in the second Test, even if they face a long, hard slog to make that happen on a glorious batting surface.
In between, Stokes was run out in shambolic fashion and also bowled a delivery straight to first slip, perhaps just to confirm that he remains human after all.
That may have been doubted by those who witnessed his adjective-busting assault on the South African bowlers, in which he smashed a series of major records in scoring 258 in just 198 deliveries.
With Jonny Bairstow adding an unbeaten 150, England were able to declare on 629/6 and still have nine overs at the South Africans before tea on day two on Sunday.
In reply, South Africa reached stumps on 141/2, which not only confirmed the excellent Newlands batting surface but also stitched up some of the gaping wounds that Stokes had inflicted.
The only way to explain the magnitude of Stokes’s innings is with numbers. He began the day on 74 with England on 317/5, hit his first ball for four and needed just 11 more deliveries to go to his hundred.
With South Africa reeling from that early barrage, he made sure there was no let-up. By the drinks break, England had scored 103 runs in 13 overs. Soon after, Stokes had 150 in 135 balls, making him the fastest Englishman to the landmark.
The next 50 runs took him just 28 balls, giving him the second fastest double hundred in Test history. By lunch, Stokes had scored 130 runs in the session – the most by any Test batsman in a morning session. England had scored 196, the second most by a team in a pre-lunch session. England were 513/5.
After lunch, Bairstow brought up his maiden Test century in 161 balls. On any other day, it would have made headlines, but not on this day.
The first hour after lunch yielded a further 97 runs, and also the first clear chance that either batsman had given since they came together with the match in the balance at 223/5, Morne Morkel shelling the simplest of catches at long-off to hand Bairstow a reprieve. At that stage, England were 602/5.
Stokes started the next over with two booming sixes off Kagiso Rabada, taking his tally for the innings to 11 – the second most in a Test knock.
Then, he skied one to mid-on, where AB de Villiers circled underneath the ball, dropped it, and then ran Stokes out as he dithered in expectation of a catch.
The partnership finished on 399, the highest sixth-wicket stand in Test history, and the highest for any wicket in South Africa.
The mental shambles of the day flowed into South Africa’s innings as Stiaan van Zyl was run out in a mix-up with Elgar in the third over, but thereafter, Hashim Amla restored a much-needed sense of calm.
His runs are what South Africa missed most in 2015, but he started the new year with an unbeaten 64 that restored his team’s heartbeat to a healthy pace.
Amla shared in a 78-run stand for the second wicket with Elgar, who was his usual bolshy self during his 44. Once Stokes had removed the left-hand batsman, the South African captain added an unbroken 56 with de Villiers, who survived Joe Root’s drop at second slip off the bowling of James Anderson to end the day on 25 not out.
It remains to be seen whether the pitch deteriorates sufficiently to assist a result. A total of 453 runs on the day makes that seem doubtful, but more long, hot and windy days are forecast, and given the morning’s events, it seems that anything is possible in this game.
– African News Agency (ANA)