Moeen Ali’s hat-trick saw England complete a 239-run win over South Africa in the third Test at The Oval on Monday.
Victory put England 2-1 up in this four-match series with just the fourth Test at Old Trafford starting Friday to come.
Off-spinner Ali ended the match when, after having Dean Elgar and Kagiso Rabada caught at first slip by Ben Stokes with the last two balls of his 16th over, had Morne Morkel lbw with the next.
As such, here’s our two good, two bad, four-man shortlist:
Simply, what a debut. The Middlesex paceman, at 29, has had to do the hard graft in county cricket over the years to finally get a go at international level and he certainly didn’t disappoint.
His superb 5-57 in the first innings, dismissing five out of the top six South African batsmen in the process, was the stuff of dreams.
He went on to claim 3-35 in the second to finish with eight altogether and let’s not forget he also scored 48 runs with the bat down the order.
That showing has virtually booked him his place on the Ashes tour later this year.
Roland-Jones may have missed out to Ben Stokes, perhaps unluckily in the man-of-the-match stakes, but he won’t worry about that one jot.
It didn't take long for Toby Roland-Jones' Wiki page to be edited... pic.twitter.com/BEumsWmV77— PA Sport (@pasport) July 28, 2017
The 30-year-old showed immense grit and determination to occupy 189 balls at the crease and score his eighth Test hundred – a well played 113 – as he stemmed England’s pursuit of the six remaining wickets needed on the final day.
The Proteas of course knew a world-record chase of 492 was way beyond them but Elgar at least gave them a fighting chance of pulling off a miracle and batting out the fifth day.
It wasn’t to be in the end but the opener has set more than an example for his team-mates during this series.
If South Africa are to salvage a draw with a win in the final Test, they’ll need more runs from Elgar – particularly given a lot of the other batsmen around him have been under-performing.
The Middlesex left-hander was the odd one out from the Oval – that’s if we’re just talking about England’s three new selections for this test.
While Roland-Jones, as discussed, and Tom Westley – who drew comparisons to Michael Vaughan – impressed on debut, Malan’s Test bow didn’t go to plan for him nor England.
The 29-year-old, whose only previous England appearance was in a T20 shirt against South Africa last month, made just 11 runs in two innings.
He may have got an absolute beauty in his first, Kagiso Rabada bowling a vicious yorker that not only smashed his stumps but left the batsman on his knees, but the previous 16 deliveries of his 17-ball stay at the crease left little to be desired.
Malan is undoubtedly talented but his unorthodox batting pose, covering all of his stumps and making him a prime lbw candidate, was his undoing – especially against decent pace. Indeed, Chris Morris trapped him for 10 when he had a golden chase to help build England’s second innings advantage.
He’s likely to get one more crack at Old Trafford but you can’t help but thinking Malan is not cut from the cloth needed in the Test arena.
Poor old Heino Kuhn.
The South African opener had to wait until the age of 33 to make his Test debut in this series for his country – but, without sounding too harsh, it couldn’t have gone any worse.
Despite coming into the contest off the back of a stunning double ton and another century for South Africa’s A side during their tour of England, he has looked completely out of his depth at full international level.
At the Oval, Kuhn made just 26 runs in two innings (78 in total in six innings this series) and is likely to be dropped for the fourth Test at Old Trafford.
For a player who has enjoyed an impressive first-class record, it’s a sad end, but that’s the brutal nature of the five-day format.
Heino Kuhn baptism of fire— Tamsanqa Mkoko (@tmkoko001) July 31, 2017
1(14) 9(14) 34 (87) 8(22) 15(24) 11(17) #EngvSA
Virat Kohli has had a brilliant time while captaining the Indian team in Test cricket so far.
His first few Tests as skipper didn’t exactly go to plan as India failed to get a win in the first four matches, but after a shaky start, Kohli got his first win as captain in the second Test of a series against Sri Lanka at Colombo in 2015.
Since then, there has been no looking back as he currently holds the third-best winning percentage of all time as captain in Test cricket (minimum 10 Tests). If you push the minimum criterion to 20 Tests, then only Steve Waugh is above Kohli on the list.
Thus far, the Delhi batsman has captained the Indian team in 27 Tests – winning 17, losing three and drawing seven. India are also currently the number one Test side in the world which is another feather in Kohli’s hat.
Despite possessing such a fantastic record so far, Kohli will know that his biggest test will come when India play more series outside Asia as that has been an area the Indian team haven’t performed too well in the past.
Only six out of the 27 Test matches that Kohli has captained in so far have come outside Asia, with him winning two of those matches – both against the West Indies.
According to the International Cricket Council’s Future Tours Programme, India are scheduled to travel to South Africa, England, and Australia over the next 18 months which will definitely throw more light on Kohli’s captaincy.
|1||Warwick Armstrong (Australia)||10||8||0||2||80.00|
|2||Steve Waugh (Australia)||57||41||9||7||71.93|
|3||Virat Kohli (India)||27||17||3||7||62.96|
|4||Sir Don Bradman (Australia)||24||15||3||6||62.50|
|5||Ricky Ponting (Australia)||77||48||16||13||62.34|
NOTE: Table last updated on July 31, 2017.
England will return on the final day of The Oval’s 100th Test in pursuit of six more South Africa wickets to take a 2-1 lead in the Investec series.
The hosts set their visitors a notional, world-record 492 to win in four sessions after half-centuries from Tom Westley, Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow in their 313 for eight declared.
First-innings centurion Ben Stokes then restated his huge value with the ball too, by taking two wickets in two balls, as South Africa faltered to 52 for four before Dean Elgar (72 not out) and Temba Bavuma demonstrated the hint of a lasting rearguard in an unbroken stand of 65 on the way to 117 for four at stumps.
It is nonetheless a long shot that South Africa could somehow prevent a home victory here, with only the fourth Test to come at Old Trafford.
Debutant Westley’s was the most notable of England’s fifties.
They had to dig in as South Africa bowled tightly, and partial cloud cover meant batting remained an awkward occupation as it has been throughout this match.
But Westley (59), Root (50) and Bairstow (63) were able to help present the home attack with a minimum 138 scheduled overs in which to force the endgame. After 18 of them, they appeared to be on the fast track.
Opener Heino Kuhn is still searching for a first significant score after his three Tests, this time bowled off-stump when Stuart Broad got one to nip back and defeat his defence.
England struck another big blow when Toby Roland-Jones continued his fine debut by seeing off Hashim Amla for the second time in the match, for just five to add to his first-innings six – an aggregate of exactly 300 fewer than he made on his last record-breaking Test visit to this ground five years ago.
Amla fell to a neat catch at second slip by Root, having tried to take the bat away.
Quinton de Kock could not interrupt the unstoppable force, bowled off his pads by a yorker from Stokes – who immediately followed up when Faf du Plessis was lbw for a golden duck, playing no shot as in the first innings.
Three wickets had gone for five runs in eight balls, and England had a further 23 overs – 31 with the extra half-hour – to complete a four-day win.
Only opener Elgar, dropped by Keaton Jennings at third slip off James Anderson on nine, appeared to be sticking around.
En route to a 77-ball fifty, he found a like-minded ally in Bavuma – the batsman who had stood in England’s way longer than the rest with a half-century first time round.
In the hosts’ second innings, no one worked harder than number three Westley, who shared a stand of 62 with Keaton Jennings and then – during a partnership of 78 with Root – reached 50 at his second attempt in Test cricket when he clipped Morne Morkel past midwicket for his ninth four from the 119th ball he faced.
His second-wicket partner Jennings needed none of the good fortune he had relied upon the previous day, after England resumed on 74 for one.
The left-hander was assured in defence and middled the ball in measured attack too until – only two short of his half-century – he finally got a ball with his name on it.
Kagiso Rabada found alarming bounce to have the opener helplessly splicing a simple catch to gully.
Westley’s struggle brought him just nine runs from 54 balls in 85 minutes, while 47 were scored at the other end.
But he did not panic – and after Root took 13 deliveries to open his account, the captain was soon batting fluently.
Both were rewarded with fifties, Root reaching his from 91 balls shortly after Westley was stumped trying to take the attack to Keshav Maharaj (three for 50).
The slow left-armer struck in successive overs, Root mistiming a sweep into the hands of deep square-leg.
Dawid Malan fell lbw on DRS for 10 to a good ball from Chris Morris that jagged back into him off the pitch.
Stokes then huffed and puffed, but the desired quick runs did not really come until Bairstow got himself in too.
(Provided by Press Association)