Moeen Ali hat-trick: Revisiting his exploits in the Oval Test
After getting drubbed by South Africa at Nottingham in the second Test, England came back strongly at The Oval and completely outplayed the visitors to win the third Test by 239 runs.
Riding on Ben Stokes' counter-attacking and flamboyant century and Toby Roland-Jones' sensational debut bowling spell in which he claimed five wickets, the hosts gained a decisive first innings lead of 178 runs.
In the second innings, half-centuries from Tom Westley, Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow ensured England pushed the game further away from South Africa and then English pacers wrecked the Proteas' batting line-up to close in on a memorable Test win.
The final touch to this inspired victory came from Moeen Ali who was rather subdued during the first four days of the Test and made his mark for the first time in the game by accounting for Chris Morris on the fifth day.
Ali's moment of glory seals England's win
Amidst South Africa's miserable batting performance, Dean Elgar, their opening batsman, stood tall and batted with grit. He brought up his eighth Test century to postpone South Africa's inevitable defeat and looked solid against England's quick bowlers.
He found an able partner in Keshav Maharaj, who came to bat at number nine and exhibited strong resilience. The duo added 47 runs for the eighth wicket and survived the ordeal for ten overs.
And in the 76th over Moeen Ali happened.
The off-spinner bowled the first three deliveries outside the off-stump with a bit of turn and then planted doubts in Elgar's head by pushing the fourth delivery straight with an angle.
On the fifth delivery, he once again moved the ball away from the batsman but with reduced pace. The flight and the pace drew Elgar forward and forced him to play a drive. However, the footmarks resulted in the ball turning more than what Elgar expected. The ball took the outside edge of his bat and found Stokes' hands, who was fielding at first slip.
Elgar's resistance ended and Ali gifted England the biggest wicket of the South African innings. The Proteas opener was replaced by Kagiso Rabada, another left-hand batsman.
On the following delivery, Ali again pitched the ball outside off-stump which some turn. Again, there was an outside edge and like before, Stokes took a simple catch.
Two balls, two dismissals and both in the same manner; bowled by Ali, caught by Stokes. The hosts were now only one wicket away from a win. And Ali, one wicket away from a hat-trick.
Stokes kept Maharaj quiet in the next over and delivered a maiden to ensure that Ali got to bowl at South Africa's number 11 batsman for his hat-trick ball.
Morne Morkel, who was facing the hat-trick ball, received an arm delivery that came in with an angle. Morkel was clearly surprised by this variation of Ali and missed the straighter one.
The ball wrapped on his pads resulting in a massive appeal for LBW by the England camp. The umpire Joel Wilson studied the appeal for an eternity and finally turned it down.
However, Root and Co. were in no mood to accept a refusal and asked for a review. The replays predicted that the ball would go on to crash the leg-stump. It was all three reds in the review and the third umpire declared the batsman out.
That was it. Wilson's decision was reversed. Morkel was out. Ali had taken three wickets in three balls. South Africa's misery came to an end. England won. And The Oval erupted in joy.
The off-spinner sent back Elgar, Rabada, and Morkel on consecutive deliveries and earned a well-deserved hat-trick.
A hat-trick worth remembering
Ali's hat-trick that sealed the game for England was the first of its kind at The Oval and it came in the 100th Test played at the venue.
It was also the first instance of an English spinner claiming a hat-trick in a home Test and the first hat-trick by an English spinner after 79 years.
The last time an opposite bowler earned a hat-trick against South Africa was in 1957 and the last time an off-spinner achieved this rare feat was in 2013 when Sohag Gazi accounted for three New Zealand batsmen in 2013.
Also, for the first time in the history of the game, three left-hand batsmen were dismissed on consecutive deliveries.
The impact of the hat-trick
South Africa were on an high going into the game following their win in the second Test, but their heads dropped after England's all-around performance in the first four days.
And the final blow was Ali's hat-trick. The sensational hat-trick sucked out whatever little hope was left in the South African camp and the visitors never recovered from this massive blow.