All-round show helps England go 2-1 up

England’s victory on the final day at the Kia Oval was wrapped up in stunning fashion by Moeen Ali who took South Africa’s last three wickets with a hat-trick – the first in the 100 Test matches at this famous ground – to give the home side victory by 239 runs.

It took England a little under two and a half hours of cricket to take the six wickets they required on a bright, sunny final day. A sizeable crowd has turned up in South London, the spectators taking advantage of reduced ticket prices, perhaps in expectation of a classic, nail-biting finish but that was not to be. Despite a fighting hundred from Dean Elgar, England wrapped up the win with relative ease with Moeen taking four wickets and Toby Roland-Jones two.

After dragging themselves back in to contention with a fine performance at Trent Bridge, South Africa will have to do the same in the fourth and final Test at Old Trafford beginning on Friday (August 4) if they are to avoid a first series defeat in England since 1998. The home side, heavily criticised after their showing in Nottingham, now lead the series 2-1 and will feel much better about themselves given their commanding performance over these five days. Their task now is to push on from here.

What hope South Africa had of saving the game rested largely on Elgar, Temba Bavuma and Vernon Philander, the three remaining batsmen with the skill and temperament to bat for long periods. South Africa had achieved similar feats against Australia, India and Sri Lanka in the recent past and after some doughty resistance from Elgar and Bavuma which lasted most of the first hour, they may have started to believe that history might be repeating itself.

It was Roland-Jones, his five wicket haul in the first innings still fresh in the memory, who put paid to any such notion just before drinks in the morning session when he took two wickets in two balls. Bavuma went first, LBW to a delivery which angled back in at him, although he was initially given not out by umpire Aleem Dar. England wisely reviewed and the ball was shown to have hit pad before bat – just – as Bavuma defended, the decision duly reversed as a result.

Next ball, Vernon Philander, in the mould of his captain Faf du Plessis, played no shot to a ball that also nipped back at him and was plumb LBW. It was so nearly a debut hat-trick for Roland-Jones as the next delivery to Chris Morris bounced slightly, took the edge but fell agonisingly short of a diving fourth slip. Regardless, the wickets of Bavuma and Philander, two of the three South Africans capable of batting out for the draw, had effectively ended the contest and the Middlesex seamer finished with 3-72.

Elgar though continued to battle gamely despite suffering discomfort in his left hand following a blow last evening. He had begun the day on 72 – having been dropped on nine by Keaton Jennings yesterday – and moved quickly along, taking advantage of the wide open spaces left by Joe Root as he attacked with plenty of catchers in place. Twice in two balls, Elgar pulled Ben Stokes for four and then, an over later, cut the same bowler for another boundary.

Bavuma and Elgar had put on 108 for the fifth wicket in good time before Roland-Jones got rid of the former but Elgar, left-handed, determined, compact and timing the ball nicely, carried on. His eighth Test hundred was reached by plonking Moeen over mid-off for four and contained eleven boundaries in all. It was a fine, if ultimately fruitless, rear-guard action.

Chris Morris gave the opener some useful support in making 24 but he was dismissed on the stroke of lunch, pushing at a delivery from Moeen and was well caught by a diving Stokes at first slip. By then, South Africa had moved past 200 and Keshav Maharaj provided further support after the break in a partnership of 47 with Elgar.

England’s task was made harder by the flatness of the pitch – it hardly seemed to deteriorate at all – and the lack of overhead cloud cover, which meant conditions on day five were the best they had been for batting in the match. Despite that, England stuck to their task and Elgar eventually fell to Moeen, caught at slip, driving, for 136. The very next ball, Kasigo Rabada was dismissed in exactly the same fashion for nought.

That wicket came off the final delivery of Moeen’s 16th over so he had to wait before his hat-trick ball to Morne Morkel. When the delivery thudded in to the batsman’s pad, seemingly plumb in front of the stumps, all the England fielders went wild but the umpire, Joel Wilson, was unmoved. Root reviewed straight away and the replay showed it was crashing into leg stump. Mobbed by his team-mates, Moeen, who finished with 4-45, had a Test hat-trick to his name.

It was only the third time a Test has been ended by a hat-trick and the first time since 1902. It was also the first hat-trick for an England spinner since Tom Goddard’s feat in 1938-39, capping a fine England performance in the Test with a brilliant finish.

Brief scores: England 353 (Ben Stokes 112, Alastair Cook 88; Morne Morkel 3-70, Kagiso Rabada 3-85) & 313/8 decl. (Jonny Bairstow 63, Tom Westley 59; Keshav Maharaj 3-50) beat South Africa 175 (Temba Bavuma 52; Toby Roland-Jones 5-57, James Anderson 3-25) & 252 (Dean Elgar 136; Moeen Ali 4-45, Toby Roland-Jones 3-72) by 239 runs.


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