Ben Stokes overpowered South Africa, and the record books, with Jonny Bairstow acting as an able accomplice to one of the most devastating batting performances in Test history.
Stokes was an unstoppable force from the very first over of the day, immediately picking up from where he left off last night, on way to scoring the fastest-ever Test double-century by an England player.
It was just one of a host of records that were screwed up, thrown out and re-written on a day the 10,000-strong touring English support at Newlands will never forget.
Stokes took centre stage clubbing an England record 11 sixes, plus 30 fours, on way to 258 from 198 balls and with Bairstow embarked on a world record sixth-wicket partnership of 399.
No South African bowler was safe from the carnage – all four of their front-liners registered unwanted centuries – as England piled on 312 runs in 38.5 overs today at a barely-believable run-rate of 8.03.
They are numbers never seen before in over a century of Test cricket.
Stokes was chiefly responsible, he took just 12 balls to go from his overnight 74 to a century, before then racing to his double-ton from 163 deliveries as the boundaries rained down.
He smashed Ian Botham’s 34-year record for England’s quickest double-ton, which had stood at 220 balls, and fell just short of Nathan Astle’s world mark by 10 balls, coincidentally set against England in 2002 at Christchurch – Stokes’ city of birth.
Botham was on hand to see his record fall, praising Stokes’ “box office” talents in Sky Sports’ TV coverage, while Twitter whizzed like a pub fruit machine in appreciation.
This is a ‘I was there moment’ …. Thank you @benstokes38 #SAvEng
— Michael Vaughan (@MichaelVaughan) January 3, 2016
At the other end Bairstow’s maiden century, almost four years after making his debut, was no less significant.
The Yorkshireman dovetailed supremely with Stokes and the importance of reaching three figures was obvious as he let out a scream of delight when cutting Stiaan van Zyl to the point rope shortly after lunch.
Bairstow would go on to be unbeaten on 150 when skipper Alastair Cook finally decided South Africa’s beleaguered bowlers had endured enough, with the score 629 for six midway through the afternoon session.
South Africa promptly lost Van Zyl to a calamitous run out before tea – a clear side-effect of being pummelled around Newlands – before Stokes made his mark with the ball.
Dean Elgar got a leading edge to point, after Stokes got a short ball to hold in the surface slightly, but that was the last of the wickets as South Africa reached stumps at 141 for two.
Hashim Amla was unbeaten on 64, as the captain revealed a return to form, with AB de Villiers alongsied him on 25. De Villiers had been dropped on five by Joe Root at second slip.
The state of the game had almost become secondary to the onslaught before and after lunch but with a 1-0 lead after the 241-run success in Durban, England will suspect that they will at least retain their series lead after this game.
Whether they can convert a dominant first two days into victory will now fall to the bowlers after the Proteas batsmen proved there were still plenty of runs left in a pitch which yielded 450 today for the loss of three wickets – and two of those were run outs.
Those batsman-friendly conditions meant there was pressure for Stokes and Bairstow to push on this morning and make sure a large first-innings total was achieved.
Stokes counter-punched last night in the face of danger and when he crashed two boundaries in the first over of the day, it was clear his mentality had not changed.
Few could have envisaged, however, how effectively the tactic would work.
England hit a record 196 runs before lunch – Stokes adding 130 of them which was another all-time record best – without a single chance being offered.
One of the best partnerships you could wish to see!!! The ginger ninjas @benstokes38 and @jbairstow21 were UNBELIEVABLE today #SAvENG
— James Taylor (@jamestaylor20) January 3, 2016
Stokes rushed past his previous Test best, the 120 he scored against Australia at the WACA Ground two winters ago, before going past Graeme Hick’s mark for the highest score by an England number six.
His double-century was fittingly brought up before lunch with a fearsome pull shot off Morne Morkel to the midwicket rope.
Stokes’ barrage was only ended as he chased yet more runs before the declaration, although his exit was in the end comedic.
De Villiers failed to hold a high top-edge catch at mid-on – moments after Morkel had dropped a simple Bairstow chance – but Stokes had expected him to pouch it and was caught ball watching in the middle of the wicket when the stumps were then thrown down.
It hardly mattered, however, to the Newlands crowd who got to their feet as one to applaud one of the most destructive innings seen in any format of the game, ever.