Crawley takes England to verge of South Africa series win

England were 97-0 at stumps, needing just 33 more runs to reach a modest target of 130 on Monday's final day, when spectators will be let in for free, and take the three-match contest 2-1.

Crawley takes England to verge of South Africa series win
England's Zak Crawley (C) is congratulated by teammate Alex Lees as he celebrates after scoring a half-century (50 runs) during play on the fourth day of the third Test cricket match between England and South Africa at The Oval, in London, on 11 September 2022. Picture: Ian Kington/AFP

LONDON - Zak Crawley's dynamic unbeaten fifty took England to the brink of a series-clinching win over South Africa in the third Test at The Oval on Sunday.

England were 97-0 at stumps, needing just 33 more runs to reach a modest target of 130 on Monday's final day, when spectators will be let in for free, and take the three-match contest 2-1.

The often struggling duo of Alex Lees and Crawley finished the day 32 not out and 57 not out respectively.

Even though the floodlights were on, the umpires decided conditions were too dangerous when play was halted at 1737 GMT.

Their decision, greeted by boos from a packed crowd, meant England were denied a chance of a win inside two days after Thursday's play was washed out without a ball bowled before Friday's scheduled second day was abandoned following the death of Queen Elizabeth II.

England bowler James Anderson told Sky Sports going off for bad light was "frustrating but we will come back tomorrow and hopefully finish off the job".

Crawley deployed both his trademark cover-drive and the pull to good effect during a 36-ball fifty featuring nine fours.

'DIFFICULT SITUATION'

Left-hander Lees, however, was dropped off the first ball of the chase when he edged Kagiso Rabada only for Marco Jansen to floor a routine fourth-slip chance.

It was a rare error by Jansen, who had top-scored with 30 in South Africa's meagre first-innings 118 before taking a Test-best 5-35 in England's reply of 158 after he was omitted from the Proteas side that lost the second Test at Old Trafford.

"Obviously we're in a difficult situation," Jansen told reporters. "I guess the plan was just to dry up the runs, create pressure and take wickets that way, but their guys came out with a positive intent and they played well as well."

Crawley too was reprieved, on 51, when his powerful whip shot off Anrich Nortje was dropped by Ryan Rickelton at midwicket.

But the damage had been done earlier on Sunday when South Africa were dismissed for 169 in their second innings, albeit it was the highest total of a low-scoring game dominated by both teams' fast bowlers.

No Proteas batsman made more than captain Dean Elgar's 36.

England skipper Ben Stokes led the attack with 3-39, while Stuart Broad took 3-45.

Earlier, England lost their last three first-innings wickets for the addition of just four runs after resuming Sunday on 154-7.

South Africa, who managed just one individual fifty in the series, were 70-1 at lunch, 30 runs ahead. But the second session saw the Proteas lose six wickets for 76 runs.

Left-hander Elgar had added just one run to his interval score of 35 when Broad, from around the wicket, had him lbw.

Elgar walked off almost as soon as he was given out having, extraordinarily, opted against a review.

Replays, however, indicated the ball would have missed leg stump comfortably, although by then South Africa were 83-2.

Not that Broad cared. By dismissing Elgar, he surpassed retired Australia great Glenn McGrath's career tally of 563 Test wickets, with only longstanding team-mate Anderson (666) having taken more among pace bowlers.

"It means a lot to him (Broad) because of how high he held Glenn," said Anderson. "It's a pleasure to bowl with him at the other end."

Keegan Petersen batted well for his 23 before being squared up by an Anderson delivery he edged to fourth slip.

England are now on the cusp of a sixth win in seven Tests since the leadership pairing of Stokes and red-ball coach Brendon McCullum took charge at the start of the season.

Both Anderson and Broad were controversially left out of the preceding tour of the Caribbean that marked the end of Joe Root's reign as captain, with England having won just one out of 17 Tests before the start of the Stokes-McCullum alliance.

"It's been amazing," said the 40-year-old Anderson, now in his 175th Test. "Baz (McCullum) has been a breath of fresh air; he's come in and it just feels positive.

"It's changed not just the way the players think of Test cricket but the entire world thinks of Test cricket."