Zak Crawley and Ollie Pope steered England to an impressive nine-wicket victory over South Africa at The Oval on Monday to complete a 2-1 series victory and put the seal on an astonishing turnaround in fortunes for the home team this year. England started the day at 97/0 needing another 33 to win and picked them up in 27 minutes for the loss of Alex Lees for 39. Crawley finished on 69 not out, with Pope unbeaten on 11.
It was the third time in a row the Test had effectively taken less than three days, after Thursday’s play was washed out by rain and Friday was cancelled as a mark of respect following the death of Queen Elizabeth.
The victory made it six wins from seven Tests this summer, following a 3-0 beating of New Zealand and a win over India, all following an awful run that brought one win from the previous 17 Tests and led to the arrival of Ben Stokes as captain in place of Joe Root.
It was a glorious Test summer for England. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that Stokes and new coach Brendan McCullum transformed the team. They are a study in how a change in mindset can transform performance in a largely unchanged group of players. “Win or lose we wanted a result from the last Test of the summer,” said Stokes after Monday’s win.
“It is a very, very special thing that we’ve managed to achieve this summer but it’s not just about the 11 guys out in the field who just have to believe and buy into a new way of playing. “It’s about everybody around you, the language in the dressing room by the players, the coaches — everyone’s really taken to it like a duck to water.” Stokes’ and McCullum’s ability to bring joy and remove fear has worked wonders.
“I think something Brendon and I have done really well is taken all the external pressures away. It’s been a big change,” Stokes said. “I’ve absolutely loved it and really enjoyed the way in which everyone has really just had fun.”
Brief scores: South Africa 118 & 169. England 158 & 130/1 (Zak Crawley 69 n.o.). England won by 9 wickets.
(Written with inputs from Reuters)