Ollie Pope saved by Ben Stokes before smashing brilliant maiden Test century for England
The 22-year-old stands out as star of the future as South Africa are run ragged
Ollie Pope revealed how a word of encouragement from Ben Stokes to take a late gamble on DRS allowed him to bring up his maiden Test century as England dominated South Africa in Port Elizabeth.
Pope, 22, confirmed his reputation as a likely star of the future with a brilliant 135 not out on day two of the third Test, lighting up the stage in just his ninth international innings.
It was a knock of style and substance, spanning almost six-and-a-half hours and finishing in a blaze of improvised glory that marked him out as a player of remarkable range.
He put on 203 alongside Stokes, who crashed his way to 120 in a declaration total of 499 for nine.
Pope was beaming as he walked off undefeated and again after England left the pitch with South Africa 60 for two at stumps.
However, it might have been a different story had he not reviewed an lbw just before lunch, with the Surrey batsman ready to accept his fate on 74 only to change his mind after a last-gasp shout from Stokes.
"When Stokesy told me to review with two seconds left I thought it was clutching at straws a bit," admitted Pope.
"I thought it would be me heading back to the changing rooms to be honest, but then we saw the replay. It was a pretty good feeling at that point.
"Whenever you go up a level you want to tick off that milestone and score a hundred, it makes you feel a bit more at home in the side, a bit more confident in your ability.
"A lot of people chat and say 'you can do this, you can do that' but you're the one who has got to go and do it. Just knowing I've got that first one ticked off is a nice thing. It's exciting."
Pope has not had to wait long to reach three figures, just six Tests, but having already cheered a couple of team-mates over the line, he was thrilled to take centre stage.
"It's quite hard to put into words, it was a pretty special moment," he said. "I was lucky enough to see Dom Sibley get his first hundred last week in Cape Town, and I've seen Ben Foakes get his first hundred in Sri Lanka too.
"I've always sat there watching and been ecstatic for them and thought it must be an amazing feeling.
"It was awesome to look up to the boys in the changing room and see how happy they were. Enjoying each other's success is something we really enjoy in the dressing room."
Dom Bess rammed home the advantage by grabbing two late wickets, Pieter Malan caught and bowled and Pope rounding out his day out by holding Zubayr Hamza at silly point.
Mark Wood also gave England reason for optimism, cranking up the pace in a rapid evening spell and hitting Dean Elgar on the elbow.
"The response Bessy got out of the pitch was awesome and then Woody came in and bowled at 150kph, which is really exciting," Pope said.
"We have definitely got the firepower to take 20 wickets in this match."
Updated: January 18, 2020 08:15 AM