Ollie Robinson admitted there was a little trepidation in the England camp about singing the new national anthem – as some players were wary of getting the wording wrong.
England paid their respects to the Queen, whose death was announced by Buckingham Palace officials on Thursday evening, ahead of day three of the third Test against South Africa at the Kia Oval.
A hush descended as the players came on to the field via a military guard of honour and a minute’s silence was broken only by a one-bell chime from the highest ranking military official in attendance.
Both teams’ national anthems were sung by soprano Laura Wright, with the crowd joining in a moving rendition of God Save the King before a spontaneous and prolonged burst of applause.
Robinson, who then took a Test-best five for 49 as South Africa were dismissed for a paltry 118 before England closed on 154 for seven, savoured a unique and momentous occasion but revealed there was some apprehension in the dressing room about not slipping into old habits when the anthems were being sung.
“We had to remind ourselves of what we were actually going to sing. There was a few nervy characters walking down the steps,” he said.
“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.
“To share our respects in the way we did was a huge honour for us and the silence that we experienced walking down those steps is something none of us have ever experienced.”
While Robinson rose to the occasion, the seamer insisted he did not feel under any extra duress given the events of the morning, with England captain Ben Stokes saying before play “the show must go on”.
“The message was pretty clear from Ben: just go out there, be positive and try and force a result, play brave cricket and I think we did that here,” Robinson said.
This LV= Insurance series decider has been reduced to a three-day affair following Thursday’s washout and Friday being called off as a mark of respect to the Queen, with South Africa refusing to budge from their original itinerary of returning home on Tuesday, nixing any possibility of an extension.
But a win for either side – with the series currently level at 1-1 – seems more likely than it did at the start of the day, with 17 wickets falling all to fast bowlers over a helter-skelter few hours.
England’s seamers – led by Robinson, with Stuart Broad chipping in with four for 41 – exploited some helpful conditions to put themselves in the ascendancy, although South Africa recovered from 36 for six thanks to a knock of 30 from Marco Jansen, who took four for 34 in the hosts’ reply.
England pushed the accelerator and a few were guilty of loose strokes which means they hold just a 36-run first-innings lead, largely thanks to Ollie Pope’s 67 off 77 balls, but Robinson insisted the aggressive approach they adopted and have pursued under Stokes this summer was the correct one.
“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.”
While Robinson was celebrating his third five-wicket haul in 11 Tests, with his England bowling average now below 20, the Sussex seamer confessed he was not as fluent as he usually is.
“I actually didn’t feel that great,” he added. “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.”