England close in on emphatic win over South Africa

By Sports Desk September 11, 2022

England enjoyed a fantastic day at The Oval to close in on victory in the third and series-deciding Test against South Africa.

In the hunt for a fourth consecutive Test series win against the Proteas, England bowled and batted superbly on Sunday to leave them requiring just 33 runs on day five with all 10 wickets still in hand.

The hosts wanted to get the win wrapped up early when Alex Lees (32 not out) and Zak Crawley (57 no) powered them to within touching distance of victory, but bad light stopped play to the frustration of a full house and England captain Ben Stokes.

England had started the day at the crease but secured only a 40-run lead, requiring Stokes (3-38) to lead the England attack in their response, making the breakthrough when he drew an edge from Sarel Erwee (26).

Stuart Broad (3-45) also contributed handily, even if his first wicket – moving him past Glenn McGrath into fifth in the all-time list – came as Dean Elgar opted not to review an incorrect lbw decision.

James Anderson lured Keegan Petersen into an edge to Ollie Pope, then Broad exploited a weakness in Ryan Rickelton's defence.

Ollie Robinson's 50th and 51st Test wickets further diminished South Africa's hopes, before Stokes capped a draining spell with dismissals either side of tea, delivering a beauty to Marco Jansen (4) and finding an edge from Kagiso Rabada (0).

Broad and Anderson completed the job to leave South Africa 169 all out and set a target of 130, although England then survived a series of early scares.

Rash work from Lees saw him put down by Jansen, only narrowly escape when he appeared to be run out and loop a wild shot just beyond Keshav Maharaj.

Lees and Crawley soon settled, though, with the latter lashing his way to 50 in 36 balls before the umpires called time, much to England's chagrin.

Stoic Stokes leads by example

England's captain was clearly struggling with that troublesome, persistent left knee injury, but he kept himself in the attack late in the second session.

That paid dividends with the brilliant dismissal of Jansen that brought on tea, the swing on the delivery leaving the batsman with little chance as it knocked off leg stump, and Stokes carried on that form after the break when he sent Rabada packing. 

Those wickets came in the ninth over of a marathon 11-over spell, and Stokes was clearly in pain by the end of it, requiring treatment for the efforts that brought England to the brink of a sixth win in seven Tests under Brendon McCullum.

 

Broad joins Anderson at the top

Broad's first wicket of the innings might have come in bizarre fashion, but it saw him surpass Australia great McGrath as Test cricket's second-most successful seam bowler.

Partner in crime Anderson is the only paceman to have taken more wickets than Broad in the longest format, and Sunday bizarrely marked four years to the day since the 40-year-old had himself passed McGrath against India.

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    Buttler admitted that in hindsight, it was South Africa's start that cost England in the end, despite giving themselves a reachable target.

    "I'd say it was lost in the powerplay," Buttler said. "Quinton de Kock came out and played with really good intent, and we couldn't really match that. I think we were about 20 behind them at the end of our first six.

    "The wicket did slow up, which allowed us to pull it back in the middle, and we were happy to be chasing 160. But yeah, that innings was the difference.

    "It's still a good pitch but a little slower than we probably expected. I'm proud of how we responded with the ball after their good powerplay, and Brook and Livingstone had an excellent partnership there to take us so close.

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    "We know we're still in it. We played well today; we just didn't quite get over the line."

    De Kock, who finished on 65, was named Player of the Match for his impressive turn – he equalled the fastest half-century of the tournament (22 balls, level with USA's Aaron Jones), and broke his own record for the most runs in a powerplay by a South Africa batter at a men's T20 World Cup.

    South Africa remain unbeaten in the tournament so far and have put themselves in a good position to qualify for the semi-finals, and De Kock was pleased with how they got the win on Friday.

    "My plan was to just bat as long as I can and score as many runs I can," De Kock said. "That was pretty much it. I don't really carry or lose confidence; I just get on with my game. So that is what I focused on.

    "I thought we bowled really well, especially in the powerplay. We controlled it really nicely. Overall, we were pretty solid and to defend on 160 on a decent pitch is a good effort."

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    Quinton de Kock starred for the Proteas, but it was Anrich Nortje who ensured England could not win thanks to his bowling in the final over.

    South Africa got off to the perfect start, registering their second-most productive powerplay in the tournament so far, without losing a wicket.

    De Kock hit his half-century off 22 balls, eventually finishing with 65. However, they soon slipped away as England rallied.

    Despite an early over costing him 21 runs, Archer finished strongly on 3-40, helped by some superb catching from Jos Buttler as England eventually limited them to 163-6.

    However, England could not keep that momentum going when they stepped up to bat, getting just 41 runs in their own powerplay – their lowest tally this year.

    It was not until the introduction of Harry Brook (53) and Liam Livingstone (33) that they found their groove, but when the former got caught in the in the final over, Sam Curran and Jofra Archer could not get the 14 runs they needed from the final five balls, finishing just short on 156-6.

    Data Debrief: Records aplenty for De Kock

    De Kock has scored back-to-back fifties at the T20 World Cup, but his tally today equalled the fastest half-century of the tournament (USA's Aaron Jones also got 50 off 22 balls).

    His 49 runs in the powerplay is the most by a South Africa batter at a men's T20 World Cup, beating his own previous record of 46 against England in 2016.

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