Robinson crushes South Africa before Pope gives England lead

After the first day was lost in the rain and the second was respectfully called off following the death of Queen Elizabeth II, the two captains’ pre-game prediction that this series decider would produce an outright winner is appeared on fragile ground.

But the drop of 17 wickets in the first three sessions from the nine available keeps things on track. Ollie Robinson swept through South Africa like crepe paper with numbers of five for 49 in their 118 all out and England rode the emotion inside the Oval, only for the tourists to Dean Elgar defend themselves with character.

Come stumps, as a day that started with a fitting tribute to the late monarch ended in bad light at 6.28pm, cutting things short by an hour after a brief rain delay, England was 154 for seven and led by 36 carries. Ollie Pope had stroked an ultimately dissatisfied 67 but thanks to a collective eagerness to score quickly – summed up by Ben Stokes’ fleeting final thrash – and a fine four-wicket performance from Marco Jansen, the hosts had let their position slip.

Not that it would have dampened the spirits of the sold-out crowd as they filtered through the exits and into the night. Spectators had been at the center of what was a historic third day in SE11, solemnly observing the well-launched pre-match ceremony and then providing an emotional atmosphere as two teams went head-to-head.

Admittedly, there were some moans during England’s response, though they were tempered by the occasion. Openers Alex Lees and Zak Crawley fell cheap again as Jansen fired back with the new ball. And although Joe Root’s low-key streak seemed to take a turn when he and Pope led England 84 for two at Frictionless Tea, that was undone when the former cut Jansen to the cord on the 23rd.

It was a key dismissal from which the pendulum swung back, with South Africa trapping four more wickets in the evening session. Debutant Harry Brook had opened his account with a wonderfully elegant cover four, but quickly got rid of Jansen on the 12th, Stokes then wasting one in five lives when, a run later, he attempted another mad dash. ‘Anrich Nortje and got ahead. .

While Pope’s last love affair with the Oval ended with the previously temperamental Kagiso Rabada – a soft behind who undid his previous stroke game – and Stuart Broad, fresh out of four wickets with the ball, wearing a shot from behind for six, Ben Foakes will resume in the morning on the 11th needing to shepherd the tail. England must extend their lead on this sewing ground or see a one-inning shootout ensue.

South Africa's Marco Jansen can only watch as he is caught by Ollie Robinson's bowling Joe Root.
South Africa’s Marco Jansen can only watch as he is caught by Ollie Robinson’s bowling Joe Root. Photography: Tom Jenkins/The Observer

The first standout performance had taken place before a ball was thrown, with soprano Laura Wright breaking the silence by delivering the two a cappella anthems. Five languages ​​for South Africa? The first rendition of God Save the King at a sporting event since 1952? No problem. But for a pair of wagtails looking for worms on the outfield, everything else felt perfectly still inside the Ring and Cricket’s decision to resume proceedings in the face of possible criticism was already justified.

Likewise, Stokes opting for the bowl first still stacked around 48 hours after the draw and it wasn’t long before South Africa needed to wag their tails. An hour into the collective celebration, tourists lined up 36 for six under leaden skies, with Robinson kicking off the procession when his third delivery of the morning – a peach-length ball that took bitten – knocked off Elgar’s stump.

Robinson was flawless in an eight-over opening flurry that returned the first four wickets from his reserve. Keegan Petersen was knocked down shouldering his arms, Kyle Verreynne was slashed on a choking ball and Wiaan Mulder, one of four changes to the South African XI, was drawn by the siren call of a rare wide delivery when sending a thick edge behind. It was high quality English bowling in useful conditions.

Surprisingly enough, Jimmy Anderson had to settle for just one wicket among the stunt, his out of fly-half Sarel Erwee in the third after Elgar went missing. Instead, it was Broad, the first change once again, who agreed with Robinson overall, tying Glenn McGrath’s career kills of 563 with four for 41 to leave Anderson as the lone tailor at the above him among the leading wicket takers in Test cricket.

After replacing Anderson and knocking out Ryan Rickelton for 11 in his first run, Broad may have initially worried that his returns wouldn’t match his efforts. The 36-year-old was batting the bat several times, had three DRS decisions against him and saw Jansen go down twice as South Africa’s versatile comeback and Khaya Zondo, another call for this decider, were organized a mini recovery of 36 points. Before the break fast.

But Broad struck just after the restart as Zondo launched a cart to cover his batting shoulder, before mopping up Keshav Maharaj and Nortje with minimal fuss. Robinson was the bowler to lead his team-mates off the pitch at the changeover, however, the 28-year-old backed up his impressive return to Old Trafford with his third five-wicket shot. It was also topped off with a key breakthrough, Jansen blasting his way to the 30 with sumptuous straights only to then flash to slide.

Jansen was not left out, however. Thanks to the return of their venomous left-arm swing – oddly deemed surplus to Manchester’s requirements – South Africa still have a strong presence in this already historic Test series decider.

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