As a Surrey and England member I have an allocated seat in the OCS Stand for Test matches, I’ve been able to swap into the pavilion each time however. For this test I was in the front row of the lower tier behind the bowlers arm.
The second test had been something of a disappointment at Trent Bridge I was hoping for a very different result in this the third. England had made 2 changes, with Gary Ballance missing out due to an injured hand, Tom Westley of Essex took his place. Mark Wood was out injured with a bruised heel and was replaced in effect by Dawid Malan of Middlesex.
As an Essex member and fan I had everything crossed for Tom in particular. Joe Root won the toss and elected to bat. It hadn’t been a great summer for Keaton Jennings and things weren’t to improve at the Oval. He faced 9 balls before edging a Philander ball to Dean Elgar. That brought Westley in with a mere 12 runs on the board. would England collapse to their standard 30 for 3? I really hoped not!
Tom looked at ease at the crease, Essex saw a lot of Alastair Cook before he went off to join England and the two are used to batting together, it showed. It became obvious that Vernon Philander was unwell, he kept having to leave the pitch, which was a major blow for South Africa, he’d been far and away South Africa’s best bowler.
England went for an early lunch through rain with just the one wicket down, however the break hadn’t been a good thing for Westley and he was out to a catch by captain Faf du Plessis from the bowling of Chris Morris, he’d made a respectable 25 but was clearly disappointed to be walking back to the dressing room.
Joe Root came in with the score on 64 for 2, he and Cook put on 49 before a momentarily returning Philander took Root’s wicket, he was caught by Kagiso Rabada, who had also returned after missing the Trent Bridge test through a ban. In cam Malan, he faced 17 balls before falling foul of an unplayable ball from the aforementioned Rabada, bowled for just 1 run. England were in some difficulty on 120 for 4.
Jonny Bairstow joined Cook who’d been playing a true openers test innings, the pair saw the day out putting on 51 runs, Bairstow is a joy to watch at the wicket, the partnership made the day honours even I’d say.