England seal memorable season with South Africa series win
England hammered South Africa by nine wickets in the third and deciding Test at the Oval on Monday, completing a remarkable 2-1 series win in just over two days of action.
The home side, who resumed on 97-0, needed just 5.3 more overs to reach a victory target of 130, with Zak Crawley hitting the winning runs to finish 69 not out.
England have now won six of their seven Tests under their dynamic new leadership pairing of captain Ben Stokes and coach Brendon McCullum.
It is a dramatic turnround in fortunes for the side that had managed just one victory in their previous 17 matches.
“It has been very pleasing to be able to captain this side,” Stokes told the BBC. “The lads’ mindset and attitude towards the whole summer has been fantastic.
“The fact that different people have put their hand up and done something at different times in the Test matches has been great.”
McCullum, who became England red-ball coach in May just two weeks after Stokes replaced Joe Root as skipper, praised his players for buying into the new attacking approach.
“The way the guys have brought into the style that the captain has asked for, a style that is authentic to him, and the way he leads,” he said.
“And while the results have been fantastic, the mentality shift has been quite amazing. It has been something quite special to be a part of to be honest.”
Defeat means South Africa have suffered their first Test series loss since Dean Elgar took over as captain last year.
The skipper said the tourists were disappointed with the outcome after winning the first match of the series by an innings.
“The way we started at Lord’s made us think that momentum would be on our side but it turned quickly at Manchester and it was tough to get the momentum back on our side again,” he said.
“We are quietly disappointed at the end of the day.”
– Quickfire win –
England resumed just 33 runs shy of their target after the umpires had halted play on Sunday because of bad light, to the disappointment of a capacity crowd.
Alex Lees was 32 not out and Crawley unbeaten on 57 — his first fifty in 17 Test innings — when play started Monday under sunny skies but in front of a handful of spectators, who had been let in for free.
Lees, having added just two to his overnight score, was dropped off the third ball of the day when he edged Kagiso Rabada, only for diving wicketkeeper Kyle Verreynne to floor the chance.
The batsman’s luck ran out, however, when he was judged lbw on review to Rabada for 39, with South Africa at least spared the embarrassment of a 10-wicket defeat.
Crawley hit the winning runs when he punched left-arm quick Marco Jansen through the covers for four — the 12th boundary of his innings, with Ollie Pope 11 not out.
It meant for the third time this series, a match was won inside three days’ playing time.
Thursday’s play was washed out completely before Friday’s scheduled second day was abandoned as a mark of respect following the death of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II.
Fast bowlers on both sides dominated a series in which runs were hard to come by, with South Africa, who boast a world-class pace attack but a fragile top order, managing just one individual fifty — opener Sarel Erwee’s 73 in their innings-and-12-run win in the first Test at Lord’s.
England bounced back to win the second Test at Old Trafford by an innings and 85 runs.
Seamer Ollie Robinson was named player-of-the-match at the Oval for his career-best 5-49 in South Africa’s first innings.
England earlier this season hammered New Zealand 3-0 before beating India in a Test postponed from last year over coronavirus concerns.