Dean Elgar was the only ray of hope for South Africa at The Oval in the second innings even as one wicket fell after another and no one could string together big runs alongside the opener. He brought up his eighth Test century on the fifth day with Temba Bavuma in what was the only show of defiance with the willow by the Proteas in the Test. But soon enough, the back was broken by Moeen Ali by making perfect use of the rough on both sides of the wicket to pick up a hat-trick – the first at The Oval in its 100 year history and first by an England spinner since 1938. The reviewed dismissal of Morne Morkel ensured England beat South Africa by 239 runs and took a 2-1 series lead.
Ali first struck to dismiss Elgar on 136, having spent over five hours in the middle, with an inviting delivery that bounced on the rough and took the outside edge as the South Africa opener went for a drive. It easily carried to Ben Stokes who made no mistakes in holding on. The very next ball, Kagiso Rabada fell in identical fashion – bowled outside the off stump, Rabada goes for a drive, gets an outside edge and Stokes takes the catch at first slip. The third and match-winning wicket needed some wait, suspense and technology. A look at the DRS for third umpire and it clearly showed that it was going on to hit the leg stump. This was in fact the third instance in the South Africa innings where a bowler was on a hat-trick with Stokes picking up two wickets in the final session on the fourth day and debutant Toby Roeland-Jones also nearing a hat-trick in the first session of the fifth day. Even though he failed on a hat-trick, Roeland-Jones made quite an impact for England by picking up eight wickets in the match.
Earlier in the first session, Roeland-Jones was the decisive act in bringing to an end the staunch partnership between Bavuma and Elgar that saw them put together 108 runs. With Bavuma striding forward, there was confusion whether the ball had hit the pad first or the bat with the umpire saying not out. Roeland-Jones looked convinced and he asked captain Joe Root to ask for DRS and rightly so, the ball was hitting pad first and going on to hit the stumps. On the very next ball, South Africa’s plight in the Test was summed up as Vernon Philander went back for being caught plumb in front without offering a shot. Incidentally, Stokes’ near hat-trick on Sunday also came about when South Africa captain Faf du Plessis didn’t offer a shot.
Stokes was adjudged as the Man of the Match for his all round show in all four innings as he put together 143 runs, picked up three wickets and snatched four catches.
South Africa would need to pick up the pieces quickly and be ready for the fourth and crucial final Test in the series which begins on Friday at Old Trafford.