England skipper Alastair Cook wanted a calmer finish to proceedings at Newlands, and praised the way the Proteas went about their work, attempting to pull off a shock victory.
Cook, whose team take a 1-0 lead through to the third Test in Johannesburg, revealed that they only had plans to bat out the whole day, but losing six wickets certainly wasn’t part of his plans.
‘It was a nervous day,’ admitted Cook. ‘It’s never a particularly enjoyable day as captain, but Jonny [Bairstow] and Mo [Moeen Ali] calmed the nerves. We always seemed to be in a good position to save the game. We would have liked to have done it calmly, but that’s never the English way, is it? A few people came to watch, so we thought we’d make it exciting,’ he joked.
When the sixth wicket went down just after lunch, there was a quiet belief that the Proteas might be in with a shout, marking an extraordinary turnaround after England posted 629-6 in their first innings. It was the nothing-to-lose attitude that got them close.
‘It’s amazing, when one side is under no pressure you can just go for it,’ Cook continued. ‘When there’s no pressure it’s a hard time to bat. When you’ve got that attitude and you just go for it you can see the effects.’
It could have been a lot different for the English. As many as 10 chances went down in the Proteas’ innings, and Cook was left to rue the wasted opportunities.
‘You need to take your chances. We always practise hard, and it was just one of those games. You could see the difference between the two sides. Chris Morris took two fantastic chances and you can see how that changes the game.
‘Halfway through the game we were looking to try and win it, but credit to the way their middle order had been under pressure and then batted the way they did.’
There’s no prizes for guessing who Man of the Match was. Cook hailed Stokes’ batting as ‘unbelievable’, but wanted to remind people of the role Bairstow played, too, after scoring a maiden century.
‘It’s obviously a monkey off his [Bairstow’s] back. He made his debut in 2012 and he came so close at Lord’s  against South Africa. You saw his reaction. There are not many times you do as well as he did and it won’t be talked about, because someone went berserk at the other end.
‘It was unbelievable batting,’ continued Cook, this time about Stokes. ‘It was controlled batting of the highest quality, too. Everyone knows that he can turn games. He gave us the opportunity to win that game. I think over the last 12 months we’ve seen serious developments in him. We know that’s not going to happen every time he goes out to bat, but he’s got the talent.’