By Amos Murphy
Ben Stokes will be hoping to cap off a watershed summer for the English men’s cricket team with a series victory over South Africa when the two teams meet at The Oval this week.
You can follow all of the live scores, updates and latest stats from the third Test using the Flashscore app or webpage, with England on the verge of yet another victory this summer.
As he has done so often in recent years, captain Stokes stole the show for the hosts, notching up a stellar century – the Durham all-rounders’ first as England skipper.
It came on the back of an emotional week for Stokes, following the release of a documentary that detailed the 31-year-old’s highs and lows in the sport.
Leading by example on the pitch, Stokes, along with wicket-keeper Ben Foakes’ impressive 113 not out, helped guide England to an unassailable 415 first innings score.
Having already impressed with the ball in the first innings, England’s bowlers needed a little more than 80 overs to bowl South Africa out for a second time, eventually winning the game by 85 runs and an innings.
The pick of the bunch for England was the ever-reliable James Anderson, who continues to defy age by taking six wickets across the two innings at his home ground.
There was also a welcome return for Ollie Robinson, who marked his first match back with a splendid three-fer in the second innings, proving his worth to an England attack that had previously looked one-dimensional in the first Test at Lord’s.
As good as England were, there had been criticisms over South Africa’s performance, with skipper Dean Elgar abandoning the approach that saw the tourists romp to a famous victory in the opening Test.
Opting for a two-pronged spin attack, South Africa dropped all-rounder Marco Jansen, who had hit a confident 48 and took four wickets at Lord’s, for off-break bowler Simon Harmer.
The decision didn’t pay off, with both South Africa spinners, Hamer and regular Keshav Maharaj, combining for just three wickets between them in the second Test.
Whether or not South Africa bring Jansen back into the side for the third encounter remains to be seen, but with a first series victory on English soil since 2012 hanging in the balance, plenty rests on the upcoming decision.
For England, their only real selection issue remains at the top of the order, with out-of-sorts Zak Crawley set to be given another chance, after the selectors named an unchanged squad for the third Test.
The only question mark over an otherwise memorable summer of cricket for England, Crawley has notched up just five scores over double figures and is yet to convert any of those into half, or full centuries.
Continuing to be backed, Crawley will no doubt be eyeing up a big score when he takes to the pitch in south-west London this week, as the 24-year-old opener and his fellow English teammates aim to end the summer on a high .
Whatever happens in the third Test against South Africa, this summer will be remembered for the time England, under the stewardship of new coach Brendon McCullum, injected a new sense of belief within Test cricket.
From explosive tactics, to record run chases, and everything else in between, Stokes and McCullum have succeeded in their target of renewing hope in the English men’s red ball team.
With attention in the coming weeks set to switch to the autumn’s T20 World Cupexpect England to put on a show against South Africa, as they look to wrap up another series win and ensure an impeccable summer of Test cricket ends on a high.
You can keep up to date with all the live scores, stats and results from England’s third Test with South Africa via Flashscore