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Ben Foakes savoured his second Test hundred after being given licence to play his own way by England captain and fellow centurion Ben Stokes.
Since Stokes and head coach Brendon McCullum took charge at the start of the summer, there has been a clear emphasis on playing thrill-a-minute cricket, particularly with the bat.
But Foakes carved out a different path on day two of the second LV= Test against South Africa, making 113 not out from 217 deliveries as he occupied the crease for five hours at Emirates Old Trafford.
With Stokes contributing 103, his 12th ton at this level and first becoming skipper, England were able to declare on 415 for nine.
They finished 241 ahead as South Africa survived nine wicketless overs before the close.
Foakes admitted he was not the kind of player who could rely on producing fireworks but revealed Stokes was happy to see him wear the tourists down.
“Ben was quite clear. He said ‘we can absorb as well, this is a difficult phase’,” Foakes revealed, after the pair came together at 147 for five.
“He said ‘let’s make it up and score where we can, let’s be busy, but don’t do anything stupid’. That’s what we went with. Attacking cricket is obviously what people expect, but once the ball got old, it was actually pretty difficult to score.
“Because that’s not my natural game, it’s just trying to work out how to play best. Sometimes I haven’t got the balance right because I guess I’m not an explosive batter. So, yeah, it was tough out there and to be honest, there’s just a sense of relief.
“I’m overjoyed really. Since my first game I’ve found hundreds aren’t easy to come by in Test cricket so this one for me is very, very special.”
Foakes was referring to his dream start to international cricket, which saw him win player of the match on his England debut having made 107 in Galle.
That was back in November 2018 and in the intervening years he has found himself on the wrong side of selection decisions and fitness issues on numerous occasions.
“Since my debut a lot’s gone on. There’s been hard, difficult phases, injuries and obviously a lot of time on the sidelines,” he said.
“To be honest, after my first 10 games I was kind of looking and thinking ‘jeez, how hard is Test cricket?’. I think that really makes you appreciate and value getting the opportunity so getting another today was amazing.”
Foakes also offered with a nod to the man he shared a decisive partnership of 173 with.
Stokes’ 12 Test century coincided with the release of a new documentary about his career. Promotion for the film has seen him discuss his issues with mental health, the death of his father and his acquittal on charges of affray but he was purely back to business in Manchester.
“Everyone wants a piece of him, but the way he played was pretty special,” said Foakes.