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England frustrated but phlegmatic as bad light defers their moment of victory

Anderson, Broad call for common sense to prevail after openers motor towards victory target

Andrew Miller
Andrew Miller
Zak Crawley and Alex Lees look bemused as the players leave the field for bad light  •  Getty Images

Zak Crawley and Alex Lees look bemused as the players leave the field for bad light  •  Getty Images

James Anderson and Stuart Broad admitted to a mixture of frustration and sympathy for the umpires at the close of another captivating day's play in the third and final Test against South Africa, after a capacity crowd was denied the prospect of witnessing an England victory march by the onset of bad light.
After being set a target of 130 for victory, England's openers Zak Crawley and Alex Lees had rattled off 97 runs in 17 overs, and needed just 33 more to seal both the match and the series. However, shortly after the scheduled close of 6.30pm, umpires Richard Kettleborough and Nitin Menon led the teams from the field, having deemed that the light had diminished too much to continue.
The decision cause immediate uproar on the England balcony, where the captain Ben Stokes was seen gesticulating in disbelief, and the crowd booed loudly as the players left the field. However, having taken a light-meter reading at a similar time at the close of Saturday's play, the umpires were obliged to take that as the precedent for the match, irrespective of the match situation - a point that England's senior bowlers both acknowledged at the close.
"It's obviously frustrating from our point of view," Anderson told Sky Sports. "The rate that we were scoring, it might only have needed another five or six overs. The guys were obviously seeing the ball pretty well, and with a good crowd in here tonight, it would have been nice to finish it.
"But we understand what the point of view of the umpires is," he said. "They've taken a reading yesterday. That's the precedent for the whole game. And I think their message is, if it rains all day tomorrow, it would be unfair on South Africa if they just tried to get the game done tonight. But I'd like to think that common sense could prevail every now and then."
Broad also acknowledged that the umpires could not be faulted for having to follow the letter of the law as it stands.
"If you're a neutral making decisions, it was probably a fair call," Broad said. "The umpires communicated it very clearly with Zak and Leesy out there. They were saying, look, we're running out of time here … we don't have long left. It's not as if they said, right we're coming off.
"But we're naturally disappointed and frustrated, particularly as the guys were going so well. Leesy hit the last ball of the day through the covers for four and was seeing it fine. I can see that side of it but as a changing room, we're frustrated that we didn't get to finish it in front of the crowd that have been with us all day."
It was a point of view backed up by the former England captain Nasser Hussain on Sky Sports, who called on the authorities to adjust to the prevailing late-season conditions.
"You cannot be cross with the umpires, they are doing their job," Hussain said. "The people who set the rules need to take a look. Do they think that suddenly, in September, it's going to get bright at 6.45pm? It's not. If you have to make up half an hour, start half an hour early, rather than adding on at the end of the day. But you've got a full house here. Cricket can't just shoot itself in the foot, by picking up the bails and walking off."
Either way, the decision ran counter to the entertainment-first ethos that Stokes and Brendon McCullum have instilled to such good effect in their side this summer, with England now all but assured of finishing the summer with six victories in seven Tests, all of them achieved in a similar vein after batting second and letting their bowlers focus on taking 20 wickets.
"It's been amazing," Anderson added. "Baz has been a breath of fresh air, it just feels like a positive atmosphere in that dressing room. The message he sends about going out there and trying to entertain, everyone's bought into it.
"Yes, some days it hasn't come off, but when it does, it's spectacular. And I think it's really changed the way, not just the players think about Test cricket, but a lot of the world will think about Test cricket. It's been an incredible summer, and hopefully we can get over the line and seal the deal tomorrow."
Marco Jansen, South Africa's allrounder, was phlegmatic about the light situation, admitting that the game was already as good as up for his team, who are now resigned to a 2-1 series loss, having won so emphatically by an innings in the first Test at Lord's last month.
"I feel it would have not mattered whether we played another 20 minutes or we start again tomorrow," Jansen said. "If the game was more in the balance, it probably would have affected us a bit more. But the situation that the game was in, I don't feel it would have mattered. As bowlers we are always happy to play on, but it's all up to the umpires."

Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket