Two series win. Six victories in seven matches. Relentless entertainment. Smiles back on the faces of players and fans.
It has been quite the revival for England’s new-look test team.
England returned to the Oval on Monday to speedily knock off the 33 runs required to win the deciding third test against South Africa, completing a sweep of series victories this summer in a successful start to the new era under captain Ben Stokes and coach Brendon McCullum.
Resuming on 97-0 chasing 130 to win on Day 5, England took barely 25 minutes to seal a nine-wicket victory, finishing on 130-1. That clinched the series 2-1, to go with England’s 3-0 win over world test champion New Zealand in June and its victory in a one-off test against India in July.
Following a constant and clear message from Stokes and McCullum — essentially, to never stop attacking, to never let the opponent settle — England is a team re-energized after the low of its 4-0 thrashing by Australia in the Ashes series in the winter.
“Under Stokesy and Baz at the moment, it’s a really enjoyable environment,” said England fast bowler Ollie Robinson, who was picked as player of the match after claiming seven wickets across two innings. “You can see how we are playing, everyone has a smile on their face. We are just having a great time out there.”
Against the Proteas, the English had to come from behind in the series after losing the first test at Lord’s and they moved into an almost insurmountable position on Sunday, when bad light stopped play with the hosts on the brink — much to the annoyance of spectators who wanted to see the test wrapped up.
Alex Lees was the only wicket to fall Monday, getting trapped lbw by Kagiso Rabada for 39 in a successful review by the South Africans. Lees has earlier been dropped by wicketkeeper Kyle Verreynne off Rabada.