London News & Search
|Third Investec Test: England v South Africa|
|Venue: The Kia Oval, London Date: 27-31 July Time: 11:00 BST|
|Coverage: In-play video clips, Test Match Special radio commentary and text commentary on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra, BBC Sport website, tablets, mobiles and app.|
Toby Roland-Jones has had a dream day, a golden debut that will be talked about for years.
When cricketers, or anyone in sport, burst on to the scene like he did on the second day of England’s third Test against South Africa at The Oval, it is remembered for a long time.
The Middlesex pace bowler took four wickets as the visitors folded to 126-8 in reply to England’s 353 all out.
Circumstances conspired to help the 29-year-old. Conditions were ideal for pace bowling – cloud almost at ground level, the floodlights illuminating the gloom – and South Africa gave the latest poor showing in a series that has been an awful advert for Test batting.
But that is to take nothing away from Roland-Jones, who bowled very, very nicely on an occasion he will never forget.
Roland-Jones is a good, old-fashioned English seamer. He’s not especially quick, but he pitches the ball up and swings it away, which is always dangerous.
He has a high action that follows a lovely, long, repeatable approach, which is very similar to that of his mentor, Angus Fraser. I think I’m right in saying Roland-Jones takes exactly the same number of steps in his run-up that Fraser did.
He is also very strong, with what Fred Trueman would call “a good fast-bowler’s backside”. Fred always approved of such things.
What we have learned is that Roland-Jones is a very promising prospect. Because of the way he bowls, he will not blow batsmen away, but is more likely to take wickets through accuracy and building pressure.
Having said that, he bowled some lovely deliveries at The Oval, with the one that removed Hashim Amla particularly brutal – bouncing and nipping away to brush the glove.
On your debut, you just want to get into the game. I remember when I played my first Test, we bowled first and I went wicketless in the first innings. I felt like I was searching to make a contribution.
Roland-Jones, though, took a wicket with the 10th delivery he sent down – that’s a massive bonus. Straight away he knew he was good enough to do the thing he is in the side to do.
He was probably helped by the runs he made with the bat, 25 in as many balls that included a top-edge six that left him grinning from ear to ear. Even before he got the ball in hand, Roland-Jones had the comfort of knowing he had made an impact on the game.
At the other end during Roland-Jones’ knock was Ben Stokes, who was putting together his fifth Test century.
Stokes is a man known for his blistering onslaughts, and anyone who has seen the highlights on the BBC Sport website will have seen more of his thrilling strokeplay.
But we know that Stokes is a proper batsman, capable of the sort of innings required in Test cricket.
At The Oval we saw all of Stokes, who only really opened his shoulders when he was joined by last man James Anderson.
If you take into consideration that he can be a correct batsman, an annihilator, a pace bowler and a wonderful fielder, then he is really is four cricketers in one.
Though Stokes’ place in the batting order hasn’t changed since Trent Bridge – he is still at number six – England look much stronger for moving Jonny Bairstow and Moeen Ali from five and seven to seven and eight respectively.
We said at the time that six bowlers was too many, and the decision to leave out spinner Liam Dawson to strengthen the batting is already looking like the correct one.
Not only do England rarely need two spinners, but they are bolstering a batting line-up that often falters, by having their free-scoring players those few places lower.
On top of the shuffle, England have shown a marked change in attitude, even after they were so sniffy about the criticism they received in Nottingham.
At Trent Bridge they muttered and grumbled about the things said about them, even when most of it was justified.
Test cricket is about respecting the opposition, the conditions and the circumstances. England did not do that in Nottingham and were rightly condemned.
However, despite their protestations, they have come back and shown a completely new attitude. They have played like a Test team.
If, and when, they do complete victory, they should be honest enough to say they have learned a lesson.
Jonathan Agnew was talking to BBC Sport’s Stephan Shemilt
London News & Search