While Stokes completed a ninth Test hundred before lunch, after that all eyes were on Pope. Having batted serenely, he was adjudged LBW to Anrich Nortje with 74 to his name.
The Surrey batsman had moved across his stumps and was not sure of his bearings and, thus, was unsure about using one of England’s two reviews. However, Stokes convinced him to go for the DRS with two seconds of the 15 to go.
“I thought it would be me heading back to the changing rooms to be honest,” revealed Pope after the match, with 135 not out safely under his arm. “When Stokesy told me to review with two seconds left I thought it was clutching at straws a bit.
“When we saw the replay we saw the green and it was a pretty good feeling at that point.”
He remained watchful after the incident but did not panic. Having bided his time, a tuck that went away for four – “I thought I’d clipped it for two!” – saw him reach three figures in 190 deliveries.
“It’s quite hard to put into words. I was lucky enough to see Dom Sibley get his first hundred last week, I’ve seen Ben Foakes get his first hundred in Sri Lanka. I’ve always sat there watching and been ecstatic for them and thought it must be an amazing feeling. So to actually do it today, was an awesome feeling.”
He also revealed the work he had been doing to not just tighten his technique but also give him a better understanding of what he should not be going for outside off stump. This work took place during his injured period last summer, which saw him miss three-and-a-half months of the season with a dislocated shoulder that required an operation.
“I sat down with Vikram Solanki, who was chatting to Andy Flower, and he was like ‘what can we do to make you a better player while you’re not actually playing?’ And we decided the way I was getting out most was pushing at those fifth stump balls that I should probably be leaving.
“So we decided that I should move across slightly in my crease. So from a technical point of view that was the main thing: allowing me to line-up off stump so I could leave the ball well and actually defend close to my front pad. I’ve still got that strength of cutting and off my legs as well. Then from a mental point, I go back to those three months: it gave me a real hunger to come back. I had no idea how close I was to the England team at the time but I came back and found a bit of form straight away so it made me that bit hungrier, I think.”
Stokes, himself with a ninth Test hundred, praised the 22-year old’s innings and believes it is one of many signs that this team are going places.
“The knock he played today really showed, not just English cricket, but cricket around the world just how exciting the talent is within this group,” beamed the all-rounder. “We’ve seen Dom Sibley do it last week and now Ollie Pope this week and being out there to see him play that way was fantastic and I really enjoyed it.”