Lunch South Africa 69 for 6 (Zondo 21*, Jansen 17*, Robinson 4-21) vs England
On what is still the third day of this third and final Test at The Oval, but was actually the first after Thursday’s washout and Friday’s shutdown, both anthems were finally sung – without musical accompaniment by Laura Wright – including the first rendition of God protect the king at a sporting event since 1952.
The game started in slightly more batter-friendly conditions than when Ben Stokes won the toss and chose to bowl first 48 hours earlier. You wouldn’t know it though, as South Africa lost five wickets in the first hour, three to Robinson and one to Stuart Broad – who still managed to get plenty of movement either way to mercilessly harass the batters — and James Anderson.
But it was the lines and lengths of the three English sailors who looked after the tourists, whose selection to bolster their clout largely flopped.
Robinson, who was criticized for his fitness level at the end of the ill-fated Ashes tour of England last winter and was subsequently out of the Test side for seven months following a series of health and injury problems, threw eight overs at a trot as he went 4 for 21, including bowling three maidens.
His third ball – the eighth of the game – to clear South African captain Dean Elgar was a gem – at a length, forming as Elgar played around it to watch his stump go cartwheel.
Anderson then skipped and pulled an outside edge from Sarel Erwee with an outside length ball that moved slightly away from the batter, who sent a flyout straight to wicketkeeper Ben Foakes.
Robinson then clipped the top of the stump as Keegan Petersen left a fuller, and then Kyle left Verreynne behind for a duck of the second ball with a throw of excellent length that slid slightly off the field and found the outside edge.
In between, Ryan Rickelton, who was playing his third Test – and the first since April – after being brought in to replace the injured Rassie van der Dussen, had just started to get used to it when Broad lured him into a drive, leaving him behind before 11. at that stage South Africa was in disarray at 32 to 5.
The visitors had brought in Wiaan Mulder for the first time in this series, locked at 1-1, but he secured Robinson’s fourth wicket – and Foakes’ fourth catch – as he chased a full, wide ball that swung late to leave South Africa at 36 to 6.
The pair set up an unbroken tie worth 33 at halftime – easily the strongest union of the innings to date – but with only three matchdays possible in this game, England were well on their way to a result when they had their opponents 69 for 6 at lunch.