LONDON - Independent Media cricket writer Stuart Hess looks at the Plays of the Match from the third Test between South Africa's and England at The Oval.
Innings one - Ben Stokes 112
It was the muscular all-rounder who spoke up before the match that England’s batsmen were capable of reining themselves in and showing more responsibility than was the case at Trent Bridge. He then played with a great deal of circumspection on Thursday, under dark skies with the floodlights on and Philander beating the outside edge of his bat a number of times. By Friday morning, he’d found some form and in easier conditions for batting he smashed three consecutive sixes to register a fifth Test century. It was a fine innings, and illustrated what a fine Test player England have in Stokes.
Innings two - Dean Elgar 136
Who’s the leading run-scorer in Test cricket in 2017? Elgar only knows one way, he doesn’t care that it looks unattractive, no one should, because it’s mighty effective. He copped a barrage in his magnificent second innings here - his forefinger is in severe pain, he has a bruised hip and both thighs are bruised as well. But he’ll carry those scars with pride. It was the third highest score by a South African in the fourth innings of a Test. What Elgar and this Proteas team desperately need is a partner for him at the top of the order.
England picked three for this Test, and two of them played influential roles, with one, Toby Roland-Jones having the start to his career most young kids dream of. Tom Westley seems to have solved the no.3 problem - in the short term at least, even if it means Root’s fellow Yorkshireman Gary Ballance is sidelined. Westley played very well in the second innings although South Africa’s bowlers will want to examine him more outside his off-stump in Manchester. But he showed exemplary patience in the second innings as England built an unassailable lead. Dawid Malan’s maiden Test will be remembered for Rabada’s epic first innings yorker.
What an unforgettable week this has been!Test cap and debut,winning the test and experiencing a hat trick.Doesn't get much better than that! pic.twitter.com/M60BKgFcfI
Tobias Skelton Roland-Jones
What were Liam Dawson and Mark Wood doing in the England team in the first two Tests? Roland-Jones has been a revelation, scoring useful late runs in both innings and has carried out his ‘support’ role with the ball better than anyone could have imagined. He wiped out South Africa’s top order in the first innings, getting Amla with a beauty and finishing with 5/57. Three more wickets came in the second innings. He has a strong action and as the pitch map showed he’s a disciplined bowler. He’ll do well in Australia later this year.
Hat-trick - Moeen Ali
The 100th Test at The Oval required something more memorable than just an England win and Moeen provided it, with a hat-trick to win the match. It was the first by an England spinner since 1938, the third time a hat-trick had ended a Test, the first time in Test cricket that all three victims were left hand batsmen and the first time a hat-trick was taken here in a Test.
“Luckily Dean took that hundred monkey off our shoulders now, so hopefully the batters can respond in terms of how he showed us exactly what is needed to bat in Test cricket. It’s not going to be easy, ever. It’s about applying yourself, absorbing a lot of pressure even at times where it’s really uncomfortable...and then you will get the opportunity to score runs. He did that, it’s good from the unit’s point of view, so we’ll be trying to do exactly what he did in that last Test match.” - Faf du Plessis, saying Elgar’s set the example the rest of the South African batsmen need to follow. There have only been two centuries by a Proteas batsman in the team’s last six Tests - both scored by Dean Elgar.