Day two of Toby Roland-Jones’ England debut was a success as he ran through South Africa’s top order in the third Investec Test at The Oval.
Roland-Jones counted Hashim Amla, the tourists’ national record-holder for his unbeaten triple-century on this same ground five years ago, Quinton de Kock and both openers as his victims in his maiden Test match spell.
After Ben Stokes (112) had grafted, and finally smashed, his way to a richly-deserved century in England’s 353 all out, Roland-Jones (four for 39) put South Africa in big trouble on day two. They collapsed to 61 for seven before recovering to 126 for eight at stumps to give themselves a chance of passing the follow-on target today – especially if absent all-rounder Vernon Philander is back from an overnight stay in hospital on a drip, as he tries to recover from his mystery stomach upset.
Philander may also yet prove a major second-innings threat with the ball if the heavy cloud cover of the first two days persists over the weekend.
Roland-Jones certainly made the most of favourable conditions as his hopes of a debut performance to remember came true at the age of 29.
“I suppose this is the moment that every young kid dreams of, representing their country – and I’m no different,” said the Middlesex seamer.
“The way this afternoon unfolded was certainly something I hadn’t pictured. You try to have a pretty simple plan in your head, but things [just] seemed to catch fire a little bit.
“I was just trying to do my best and keep the foot behind the line.”
Stokes’ contribution was hard-earned and hugely valuable, on day one alongside Alastair Cook (88) and then on the way to three figures which he brought up with successive sixes off Keshav Maharaj – the first of which was caught at deep midwicket only for Faf du Plessis to brush his shoulder on the boundary marker.
Recalling the moment he reached his hundred alongside number 11, James Anderson, Stokes just decided he had to go after spinner Maharaj.
“Jimmy said ‘What are you going to do?’ – and I think I just said ‘Wallop’.
“You’re nine down, there’s obviously going to be a seamer coming on the other end and the wind was blowing in my favour so I thought it was the best opportunity to try to get as many runs as we could. Thanks to Faf – he took a good catch, but just managed to fly over. I was just in that frame of mind that I was going to try to hit it.”