England on brink of Test victory at Kia Oval

July 31, 2017

England are six wickets away from taking a 2-1 lead in the Test series against South Africa after ripping through the South African batting on the fourth evening at the Kia Oval.

Set a world record 492 to win, South Africa saw off the opening spell of James Anderson on his 35th birthday after Dean Elgar was dropped at slip by Keaton Jennings, but not that of Stuart Broad, who bowled Heino Kuhn.

However, it was the change bowlers who made the major impact as Toby Roland-Jones, fresh from taking five wickets in the first innings, had Hashim Amla caught at slip by Joe Root before Ben Stokes struck twice in successive balls. The all-rounder yorked Quinton de Kock and had Faf du Plessis lbw padding up; the second time in the match that the South African skipper had got himself out playing no stroke. 

With Elgar reaching 72 not out and Temba Bavuma keeping him company, the tourists reached the close on 117-4, their victory target a very distant one. Only three times previously has a team gone into the final day of a Test four wickets down and saved a game. Notably, however, all three have involved either England or South Africa - including the famous 1995 Johannesburg Test, when South Africa were frustrated by Michael Atherton's epic 185 not out. 

England fans booking corporate hospitality for the historic day-night Edgbaston Test when England take on the West Indies next month will be hoping the last six wickets all fall today and give England some momentum. Should they win and carry the impetus through the final Test at Old Trafford, this will set them up to take on an inexperienced Caribbean outfit. Further wins will see the side in fine fettle before this winter's Ashes.

The superb debut of Roland-Jones has been largely matched by Tom Westley, who played well again in the second innings in making 59. However, Dawid Malan missed out, making one and ten in his two innings, albeit to a couple of excellent deliveries. 

With Joe Root making 50 and Jonny Bairstow an effervescent 63, England's second innings of 313-8 declared gave them four sessions to bowl South Africa out. They should finish the job today.

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