Ollie Robinson revealed England cricketers had worries about singing the new British national anthem at the Oval on Saturday in case they got the words wrong. Before play in the third Test against South Africa finally started on the scheduled third day of five, England paid their respects to the late Queen Elizabeth II, whose death aged 96 was announced on Thursday.
After play on the opening day was washed out without a ball bowled and Friday’s second day abandoned completely as a mark of respect to Britain’s longest-serving monarch, teams and officials, all wearing black armbands, lined up on the outfield at the Oval.
While commonplace in international football or rugby union, playing a national anthem is a relatively rare occurrence before the start of a cricket Test match.
But both countries’ anthems were sung by soprano Laura Wright, with the crowd in south London joining in a moving rendition of ‘God Save the King’, a small but significant change to the lyrics of ‘God Save the Queen’ that had lasted for 70 years now Charles III is on the throne.
Sussex seamer Robinson, 28, took a Test-best 5-49 as South Africa were dismissed for a meagre 118 before England ended the day on 154-7.
But he appeared to be more worried by the anthem than his bowling on Saturday.
“We had to remind ourselves of what we were actually going to sing,” Robinson told reporters after stumps.
“There was a few nervy characters walking down the steps.”
– ‘Special morning’ –
Robinson added: “It was really special to be able to sing it at this sport event and it was a really special morning and honour to be a part of.”
As for his bowling, Robinson, who has now taken 49 wickets in 11 Tests at an impressive average of under 20, said: “I actually didn’t feel that great.
“My run-up was all over the place, couldn’t find a rhythm, I was just trying to focus on smashing out the length, really. It’s not the best I’ve felt.”
South Africa’s understandable insistence on sticking to their original schedule, with the tourists set to return home on Tuesday, put paid to any hopes of this match, the third of a three-Test series now level at 1-1, being extended into a sixth day.
But with both the first two Tests having been completed inside three days there was every reason to believe there was still enough time for either team to claim victory in south London.
And that view was only strengthened on Saturday as fast bowlers on both sides exploited the helpful overcast conditions while sharing a combined 17 wickets.
South Africa, in dire straits at 36-6, were indebted to a fine all-round display by recalled left-arm quick Marco Jansen.
He top-scored for the Proteas with 30 before rocking England with a return of 4-34.
Ollie Pope’s dashing 67 on his Surrey home ground helped England into a slender lead of 36 runs at the close after several home batsmen had been guilty of loose shots.
But Robinson defended the bold approach behind England winning five out of six Tests prior to this match under their new leadership duo of captain Ben Stokes and coach Brendon McCullum.
“You saw when the South Africans batted, if you sat there and let Test match bowlers bowl six or 12 balls at you in a row, you were going to get out,” he said.
“The type of cricket we want to play is brave cricket and be positive. We want to force a result in this game and that’s what we’re trying to do.”
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