Play on the penultimate evening of the truncated third Test was contentiously halted due to bad light at the Kia Oval with England just 33 short of overhauling a 130-target and with all 10 wickets in hand.
Surrey threw open their doors free of charge for the deferred denouement and there was no surprise twist as England claimed a nine-wicket win for their sixth Test success in seven matches this summer.
Alex Lees was out for 39, lbw to Kagiso Rabada, with the not-out decision overturned on review as South Africa chanced their arm despite muted on-field appeals, handing the fast bowler a deserved wicket after seeing keeper Kyle Verreynne spill a regulation chance off an edge in his previous over.
We win the last Test by 9 wickets and claim a 2-1 series victory. pic.twitter.com/oH45xTIUf2
— England Cricket (@englandcricket) September 12, 2022
Lees also nicked Marco Jansen just over third slip before his downfall in a streaky innings although his contribution in a 108-run opening partnership with Zak Crawley broke the back of the chase.
Crawley ended his disappointing summer with a restorative 69 not out off just 57 balls, handsomely slamming Rabada through the vacant covers then doing likewise off Jansen for his 12th four which saw England home in their final assignment of the summer. Ollie Pope finished with a cameo unbeaten 11.
Not since 2004 have England prevailed in half a dozen Tests over the course of a single home summer and they go from strength to strength under captain Ben Stokes and head coach Brendon McCullum, with this come-from-behind series success over the Proteas featuring just nine days of on-field action.
Here, a washout on Thursday and Friday being called off as a mark of respect following the death of the Queen meant there was only a little more than two days in the field – with South Africa’s refusal to shift from their scheduled flight home on Tuesday to possibly extend the match a distant memory now.
England have mastered fourth-innings chases in the Stokes-McCullum era: this was their fifth successful pursuit this summer but one which seemed far from routine at the outset of a low-scoring thriller.
Neither side breached 170 over the weekend but while Lees was dropped off his first ball by Jansen in the slips on Sunday, Crawley peeled off boundaries at will in a superb 36-ball fifty as England went at almost six an over before the evening gloom led to play being stopped.
Crawley, too, was given a reprieve after reaching his first half-century in 17 Test innings and then edged between wicketkeeper and first slip on Sunday night, but he was an assured presence at the crease on Monday morning and this knock may for now temporarily silence his critics.