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Stokes hammers South Africa team already hit by Rabada ban

Ben Stokes hit a century as England took complete control on a potentially decisive day of the test series against South Africa on Friday.

Stokes was 108 not out at lunch on the second day of the third test in Port Elizabeth and England 335-4 in its first innings, building a commanding position in the match and series.

South Africa was slipping behind and burdened by the additional blow of fast bowler Kagiso Rabada being banned for the series-deciding final test in Johannesburg.

England's Ben Stokes plays a ball during day two of the third cricket test between South Africa and England in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, Friday, Jan. 17, 2020. (AP PhotoMichael Sheehan)

Rabada's ban was announced on Friday morning, a punishment for his provocative celebration in the face of England captain Joe Root on the first day of the test at St. George's Park.

With that news hanging over them, the South Africans appeared completely deflated on the field and Stokes and Ollie Pope took full advantage.

The four-test series was at 1-1 coming into the third match but the first session of the second day and the off-field news regarding Rabada meant it appeared to be swinging heavily in England's favor.

England's Ollie Pope in action during day two of the third cricket test between South Africa and England in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, Friday, Jan. 17, 2020. (AP PhotoMichael Sheehan)

Stokes and Pope took their 76-run partnership overnight to an unbroken stand of 187 by lunch on a morning when play was delayed by rain.

The outlook for South Africa was particularly gloomy.

Stokes was starting to break free. The left-hander, voted the world player of the year this week, played cautiously at the end of the first day but was in complete attack mode on day two.

England's Ben Stokes takes a single during day two of the third cricket test between South Africa and England in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, Friday, Jan. 17, 2020. (AP PhotoMichael Sheehan)

He lashed 11 fours and two sixes in all and had strong support from Pope, who was 75 not out for his career-best score in tests.

England, 224-4 overnight, added 111 runs in the session.

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