TOBY ROLAND-JONES enjoyed an incredible, once-in-a-generation debut when he took four wickets in his first spell in Test cricket.
Within his opening 33 deliveries, Roland-Jones removed South African openers Dean Elgar and Heino Kuhn and then the opposition’s two best batsmen, Hashim Amla and Quinton de Kock.
It was fairytale stuff, a burst of wicket-taking ecstasy that Roland-Jones will recall to his grandchildren in 40 years’ time and they probably won’t believe him.
At one stage, his figures were an almost unbelievable 5.3-2-20-4.
Roland-Jones could play Test cricket for another decade and not experience such helpful conditions. The sky was slate-grey, the floodlights were on and the ball was zipping around in all directions.
The Oval really was paradise for seam bowlers and Roland-Jones took advantage with gleeful skill.
With James Anderson collecting a couple of wickets and Ben Stokes and Stuart Broad once apiece, South Africa were 126-8 by the close of day two of the Investec Third Test – still 227 runs behind England.
For Stokes, it was also a day to remember because his superb century contributed at least as much to England’s dominance as Roland-Jones’ wickets.
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After England were finally all out for 353, captain Joe Root gave Anderson just three overs from the Vauxhall End at the start of South Africa’s innings before bringing on new boy Roland-Jones shortly before tea. He wanted to give him an early taste of the action.
The mayhem started straight after the interval. Elgar was caught behind, Kuhn was nailed lbw and then Amla could do nothing other than edge a jaffa of a delivery that bounced and left South Africa’s master No.3.
The last time Amla played a Test at the Oval, he scored the small matter of 311 not out. Now he managed 305 runs fewer.
TRJ collected his fourth straight wicket when de Kock, aiming to the legside, skewed a catch to gully.
Remember, the Middlesex man is playing only because Mark Wood is injured and Jake Ball has not bowled enough since recovering from an injury of his own.
Last September, Roland-Jones found himself at the bottom of a wildly celebrating bundle of humanity when his hat-trick secured the county championship for Middlesex. But this was dream land on a different level.
Anderson joined the fun when du Plessis offered no shot to an inswinger and was leg before and Chris Morris popped up a return catch. Stokes completed a memorable few hours by having Keshav Maharaj caught at first slip.
Roland-Jones’ day started with a frisky, run-a-ball innings of 25 – including a six – and then he got to work with his real vocation.
He bats for fun, bowls for a living.
Roland-Jones is the first double-barrelled England cricketer for 82 years so let’s call him Toby Batsman-Bowler.
Stokes scored his fifth Test century and reached the milestone with theatrical brilliance with the second of three successive sixes off left-arm spinner Maharaj.
But Stokes’ innings was far from a whack fest. Quite the contrary, it was sensible and skillful effort in the tricky conditions.
Sure, the Proteas were without Vernon Philander for much of the time because of a stomach bug that was so severe the bowler went to hospital for tests. He bowled 17 overs in the innings and only five yesterday.
Philander’s illness meant he was not at the ground to bat in his designated slot at No.7. He can come in at No.11 today (Sat) if he is well enough as South Africa seek to score another 28 runs to avoid the follow-on.
Stokes, frequently standing a long way out of his crease to negate the lateral movement, finished with 112 from 153 balls which shows that he also seized on plenty of scoring opportunities.
The way South Africa’s top-order subsided proved the value of Cook’s batting on day one and Stokes’ smartness yesterday.
Cook added just six runs to his overnight 82 not out before departing leg before. Jonny Bairstow was positive while making 36 and Moeen Ali appeared unlucky to be given out caught behind on review when South Africa seemed to be appealing for lbw.
Roland-Jones timed the ball sweetly while hitting four fours and his six came courtesy of a top-edge off Morris in an over that cost 17 runs. TRJ was finally plumb lbw to Maharaj.
Broad nicked off attempting an extravagant drive but Anderson hung around long enough for Stokes to reach three figures.
His first six was caught at long-on by du Plessis but the fielder fell back onto the boundary triangle. There next two were juicily middled and went soaring into the crowd. Stokes finally departed attempting another big hit.