England v South Africa: Five things from 100th Test at The Oval
By David Currie
Last Updated: 01/08/17 6:53pm
As emphatically as they lost their way at Trent Bridge, England rediscovered their mojo once back in the capital, recording a 239-run win over South Africa at The Oval.
Paired with their Lord's triumph to open the series, England now take a 2-1 lead into the final Test at Old Trafford, live on Sky Sports Cricket from Friday.
The 100th Test at The Oval was memorable as much for the charitable causes off the field as the action on it - albeit England's batsmen not giving quite as many hand-outs as they had in Nottingham - let's have look back at the best of the Test…
Sky Ocean Rescue
Be an #OceanHero. That was the message behind the Sky Ocean Rescue campaign run, in partnership with The Oval, for the duration of the third Test. As many as 20,000 reusable water bottles were handed out over the course of the match - the aim, to reduce the amount of single-use plastic that ends up in our oceans each year.
Currently that figures stands at over eight million tonnes of plastic dumped into the ocean each year, with four rubbish trucks' worth in the time it takes for one Toby Roland-Jones over - more on him in a bit - and by 2050 all the plastic in the oceans of the world could weigh more than all the fish.
Sky Ocean Rescue hopes to change all that, and our ready and willing Sky Cricket pundits were doing their bit throughout The Oval Test by signing the reusable bottles and taking selfies with punters.
They also got involved, as usual, for Cricket United Day, donning their sky blue blazers, and a somewhat more questionable Thunderbirds-themed number rocked by David Gower, in support of the three cricket charities that team up together; Chance for Shine, the PCA Benevolent Fund, and the Lord's Taverners. The England boys also put pen to paper for their usual auctioned-off sketches, although the less said about Jonny Bairstow's shocking effort at Shaun Pollock, the better.
England's impressive application
225 all out and 133 all out, inside 51.5 and 44.2 overs, respectively. That was all a 'fragile' England batting line-up managed at Trent Bridge, with their favoured 'attacking' approach resembling more reckless abandon in the face of trying to save a Test.
Mike Selvey called on England to bring a more cerebral, Alastair Cook-like approach with them to The Oval and that they did, with Cook himself leading by example with a characteristically disciplined 88 in the most testing of conditions against the left-hand loving South African seamers. Ben Stokes then did his best Cook impression on his way to a superb century, briefly blowing his cover when smashing three consecutive sixes to reach the milestone.
"We might be a little old-fashioned up here, but it was like watching a proper Test-match innings," said Nasser Hussain in the commentary box. "There was a lot of debate after Trent Bridge about England's tempo but you couldn't argue with it in this game."
The same couldn't quite be said for South Africa's batsmen - Dean Elgar and Temba Bavuma apart - as they crumbled to 175 all out in the first innings, before making a slightly better first of their second as Elgar's century lifted them to 252.
You couldn't have wished for a more dramatic climax to that South African second innings and The Oval's 100th Test, with Moeen Ali clinching victory for England with, not only a hat-trick, but a DRS-referred final wicket.
It was the first hat-trick ever at The Oval, the first to finish a Test since 1902 and the first by an England spinner in 79 years, since Tom Goddard, also against South Africa, in 1938/39.
Despite all that, it might not have even been the only one of the innings, as Stokes - on day four - and Roland-Jones - prior to lunch - too found themselves taking two in two balls, but were unable to get that all-important third.
Roland-Jones dream debut
While Roland-Jones couldn't quite claim three in a row, he ended up with plenty for the match - eight to be precise, for the cost of 129 runs. In doing so he became the first England bowler to take eight-for on debut, since James Kirtley did it against South Africa, at Trent Bridge, in 2004.
It was his first-innings 5-57 that will live longest in the memory, taking four of them in a truly superb spell on the second evening after being chucked the ball as earlier as the seventh over by captain Joe Root - a particularly gutsy call by the skipper to sideline a sulking Jimmy Anderson.
The move was the right one; Roland-Jones took England's opening wicket with only his 10th ball in Test cricket, right on the stroke of tea, and then among his victims in the final session was the all-important wicket of Hashim Amla - scorer of 311 on his last visit to The Oval - to the ball of the Test, one that reared up off a good length on off-stump and took the glove through to Jonny Bairstow behind the stumps.
While Anderson may not have been best pleased to make way for Roland-Jones at the time, he was impressed with what he saw, saying: "He looked very comfortable and very confident. He knows his action, knows his game very well.
"He could definitely [succeed in Australia this winter]. He gets bounce, he can swing the ball, seam it, so he's got all the attributes."
Pietersen's praise for Westley
With Gary Ballance out of form and out of the Test with a broken finger, England turned to a somewhat unknown quantity to fill the vacated spot at No 3 in their line up as they looked to curb their all too familiar top-order collapses.
At 28 years old, and with only a modest 37.44 first class average, Tom Westley was perhaps not the obvious choice, but he proved to be the perfect one; a right-hander to break up the left-hander top order triumvirate. But one with a strongly legside-leaning technique that had plenty pondering if it was cut out for the rigours of Test cricket. Over to you, KP.
"Can you score runs in Test cricket playing on the legside? There's a few in England that have managed to do it," said Kevin Pietersen, when talking on Westley during his batting masterclass in the KIA Zone on the Saturday of the Test. He was impressed with what he saw.
"I think he's a fantastic player. I watched 10 minutes of him in the first innings and though he played beautifully."
Westley was guilty of one lapse in concentration in the first innings that cost him his wicket shortly after lunch, but other than that, his 25 showed he had the application and the temperament for Test cricket, while that notion was only further emphasised on his way to doubling that tally and earning a maiden Test fifty in the second.