Cricket-Crawley, Lees propel England towards victory in third test

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LONDON (Reuters) -Openers Alex Lees and Zak Crawley steered England to the brink of victory over South Africa in the decisive third test at The Oval as the home side reached 97 without loss chasing a modest 130 before bad light intervened on the fourth day on Sunday.

Both batsmen came into the test under scrutiny following a poor series, but Crawley raced to 57 from 44 balls with some dominant strokes, and Lees is unbeaten on 32.

The latter was dropped off the first ball of the innings by Marco Jansen at fourth slip, a regulation chance from the bowling of Kagiso Rabada, and England used that good fortune to propel themselves towards a series victory.

South Africa looked ragged in the field, missing two chances to dismiss Crawley as their fight in what has been a competitive series fizzled out.

The umpires took the players from the field with 50 minutes of play still possible, deeming the light not good enough to carry on, having ended play early on Saturday when conditions appeared bright enough to continue.

"It was a great day for us, I thought we bowled really well throughout the day," England seamer James Anderson told Sky Sports.

"We stuck at our task and kept picking up wickets to put us in a great position.

"Then Alex and Zak came out and played exactly how the coach and captain have asked them to play throughout the series and the summer.

"It is frustrating from our point of view (to go off for bad light), the rate we were scoring at it might have only needed five or six more overs and with a good crowd in here it would have been nice to finish it off."

England will come back to complete the job on Monday, which is the fifth day of a test that only saw the first ball bowled on Saturday.

Thursday's play was washed out by rain and Friday was cancelled as a mark of respect following the death of Queen Elizabeth.

England had earlier bowled South Africa out for 169 in their second innings, the home seamers using the swing and seam available in a masterclass of maximising conditions.

South Africa captain Dean Elgar top-scored with 36, but Stuart Broad (3-45), a hobbling Ben Stokes (3-39), James Anderson (2-37) and Ollie Robinson (2-40) were superb in extracting assistance from the wicket.

England started the day on 154-7 in their first innings, but lost their last three wickets inside 13 minutes for the addition of only four runs as Jansen took career-best figures of 5-35.

In all, 30 wickets have fallen in six sessions.

(Reporting by Nick Said, editing by Ed Osmond and Toby Davis)