Ollie Robinson and Ollie Pope lifted England into a useful position in the third Test after an extraordinary, wicket-laden third day laced with poignancy at the Kia Oval.
After stirring tributes before play to commemorate the Queen, Robinson exploited just enough movement to scoop a Test-best five for 49 which left South Africa all out for a meagre 118 in just 36.2 overs.
Wickets also tumbled in England’s response as they pushed the accelerator, although Pope’s sparky 67 from 77 balls, with 13 fours, ushered the hosts to 154 for seven before bad light ended the day early.
Marco Jansen top-scored in South Africa’s innings with 30 – one of only two touring players to reach 20 – before his four for 34 pegged England back, and with the Proteas trailing by just 36, they remain firmly in the hunt.
Here’s to you, Mr Robinson
England’s Ollie Robinson (right) celebrates with captain Ben Stokes after taking the wicket of Marco Jansen (John Walton/PA)
It has been a turbulent past few months for Robinson, with well-publicised fitness and injury issues threatening to overshadow what has been a bright start to his Test career. On the field, at least, he continues to thrive. While he lacks express pace, his accuracy is unerring and left a number of South Africa batters betwixt and between. Only New Zealand’s Kyle Jamieson has a lower Test bowling average than Robinson’s 19.79 among active international cricketers, with a minimum of 2,000 deliveries bowled.
Broad level with McGrath
Stuart Broad had another good day with the ball (John Walton/PA)
While Robinson hogged the headlines with an exemplary display in admittedly helpful conditions, England were also grateful for Stuart Broad’s four for 41 – which moved the veteran fast bowler level on 563 wickets alongside Australia great Glenn McGrath. Only long-time team-mate James Anderson, with 665 victims in 175 Tests, is ahead of the pair for most Test wickets by a fast bowler.
Charity offer from Surrey
Tests that have extended into a fifth day this summer have typically been free to attend for fans, with the counties that have adopted this approach earning rave reviews. While Surrey will differ from the strategy, they have revealed all proceeds from ticket sales on the fifth day – assuming it is not over on Sunday – will be donated to charity and split evenly between Chance to Shine, Lambeth Food Bank Trust, Sport United Against Dementia and the Surrey Cricket Foundation.
View from the dressing room
We were all searching for poles, the score was 36 for six and I think we all just got a bit ahead of ourselves in the game and started pole hunting.
Robinson admitted England let South Africa off the hook after a terrific start.
England will attempt to reinforce their advantage and how big their first-innings lead will be is likely to fall on Ben Foakes’ shoulders, unbeaten on 11 overnight and the last recognised batter left. However, considering the fast-forward events of Saturday, it would not be a total surprise if the Test did not even extend into a third day.