Ollie Robinson returned his best England figures before South Africa hit back in the third and deciding Test at the Oval as 17 wickets fell on Saturday after cricket paid its respects to Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II.
Sussex seamer Robinson took 5-49 in 14 overs, his third five-wicket innings haul in 11 career Tests, as South Africa were dismissed for just 118. Veteran quick Stuart Broad enjoyed a return of 4-41.
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Yet an extraordinary third day — but the first active one in the game — finished with England 154-7, a lead of just 36 runs.
Left-arm quick Marco Jansen, who had top-scored for the Proteas with 30 after he was unluckily left out of the second Test, took the first four England wickets to fall in a return of 4-34 in 11 overs.
Fast bowler Kagiso Rabada then captured the key wicket of Ollie Pope, out for 67 on his Surrey home ground.
Pope fenced at a good-length ball outside off stump and was caught behind — to his evident disgust — as a sparkling 77-ball innings featuring 52 runs in boundaries ended tamely.
Surrey and England wicketkeeper Ben Foakes, fresh from his unbeaten hundred in the second Test at Old Trafford, was 11 not out when bad light ended play just over half an hour before the scheduled 1800 GMT close even though the floodlights were on.
Broad’s haul meant he equalled retired Australia great Glenn McGrath’s career total of 563 Test wickets.
“He is a hero of mine,” Broad told Sky Sports after stumps. “He obviously played a lot less games (124 Tests to Broad’s 159). He was one of the greatest bowlers of all time, in my opinion.” Only James Anderson, Broad’s longstanding England colleague, has taken more Test wickets (665) among fast bowlers, with the all-time list headed by two retired spinners in Muttiah Muralitharan (800) and the late Shane Warne (708).
“It feels very special, and hopefully I can get one more to join Jimmy (Anderson) as a one-two in the list of seamers,” said Broad.
The opening day was washed out without a ball bowled and there was no play on Friday following the death of Britain’s longest-serving monarch on Thursday, leaving three days.
But South Africa thrashed England by an innings and 12 runs at Lord’s inside three days before the hosts were as quick as they won the second Test in Manchester by an innings and 85 runs.
Stokes had won the toss on Thursday and opted to bowl first and Saturday’s overcast conditions favoured the bowlers.
After a minute’s silence in memory of the Queen, with the first rendition at a major sporting event in the reign of Charles III of ‘God Save the King’, South Africa’s longstanding top-order problems again became apparent.
South Africa captain Dean Elgar, his team’s most experienced batsman, was bowled between bat and pad for just one by a fine Robinson delivery.
Anderson then had Sarel Erwee, Elgar’s opening partner, caught behind for a duck, with South Africa slumping to 32-5 in the first hour.
But Khaya Zondo, in his first Test innings, responded to a desperate situation by lofting spinner Jack Leach for six.
Together with Jansen, he doubled the score from 36-6 to 72-7. Zondo, however, was out for 23 in the first over after lunch, fending at a lifting Broad delivery before the seamer had Jansen caught by Joe Root at first slip.
England have had their own batting problems and the towering Jansen removed the struggling opening pair of Alex Lees (13), bowled between bat and pad, and Zak Crawley (five), lbw to an inswinger.
And when star batsman Root, chasing a wide Jansen delivery, was brilliantly caught by Keegan Petersen at third slip for 23, England were 84-3 in the first over after tea.
England debutant Harry Brook got off the mark in style by cover-driving Jansen for four but fell for 12 when, after rain stopped play for 30 minutes, he carelessly hoisted Jansen to Rabada at long leg.
Stokes fell for six when he edged an extravagant drive off fast bowler Nortje to first slip before Rabada had Broad caught behind.