The third Test between England and South Africa will resume on Saturday “to pay tribute” to Queen Elizabeth II. However, there will be no extension of the Test, with South Africa set to depart from the UK on Tuesday.
The game will resume on day three, following a first-day washout and then the suspension of Friday’s play, with England bowling having won the toss.
“Cricket will resume on Saturday to pay tribute to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and honour her remarkable life and service,” read an ECB statement.
“Following the cancellation of Friday’s cricket fixtures as a mark of respect on announcement of her death, the England and Wales Cricket Board can confirm that play will resume from Saturday including international, domestic, and recreational fixtures. The decision has been taken after consultation with DCMS and in line with Official National Mourning guidance.
“This means the Men’s Test match between England and South Africa will begin at The Oval and the Women’s IT20 match between England and India will also go ahead at the Riverside in Durham. The scheduled match between England and Sri Lanka Men’s U19 along with recreational cricket fixtures will also take place as planned.
“Before each match, a minute’s silence will be observed followed by the national anthem. All players and coaches will wear black armbands. Branded inventory will be replaced with messaging paying cricket’s respects to the Queen.
The ECB had been hopeful of extending the Test match into Tuesday to ensure four days of play. However, CSA chief executive Pholetsi Moseki confirmed to ESPNcricinfo the tourists would stick to their original itinerary ahead of leaving for a limited-overs tour of India on September 23.
“Yes we have lost a day,” Moseki said. “The team was part of the decision, considering that they are due to fly to India a few days later after their return.”
In an official statement, Moseki added: “CSA is in full support of the ECB’s decision to go ahead with the third Test match between England and South Africa following the UK’s day of mourning. After consultation with the Proteas’ team management and given the schedule ahead, it was clear that it would not be in the players’ interests to extend the Test and reduce the few days the players have with their families before another long tour.”
There was cautious optimism on Friday morning that the Test would continue. The ECB was part of a 9.30am DCMS meeting with other national sporting bodies whereby the advice given was to make their own individual decisions. A government spokesperson said: “There is no requirement, or obligation, to cancel or postpone events or sporting fixtures, or close entertainment venues, during this period. It’s at the discretion of individual organisations.
“They may wish to consider cancelling or postponing, particularly on the day of the state funeral, but they are under no obligation to do so.”
Following that meeting, sources at the ECB and Surrey County Cricket Club, where the match was being hosted, were confident the game was likely to continue. The only sticking point seemed to be whether the resumption on Saturday would be “day two” or “day three”. The former would have required South Africa to move back their flight home, originally scheduled for Tuesday.
Following conversations after Thursday’s play, CSA was willing to follow the ECB’s lead, though there was reticence from the touring players to stay an extra day. England’s players were keen for the match to go ahead, with captain Ben Stokes declaring as much on Twitter.
While the ECB discussed plans around logistics to continuing, CSA engaged in their own internal talks on Friday morning but were ultimately at the whim of the host board. Clarity was expected before lunch in order to give attending fans time to make or amend plans.
At around 11:30am, there was trepidation at the ECB with the announcement of a blanket cancellation of football this weekend. Postponements from the Premier League and Women’s Super League right down to grassroots level gave way to anxiety that perhaps cricket should follow suit. But by the early afternoon, as sports such as rugby and horse racing announced they would keep to their weekend schedules, the decision to carry on in a respectful manner was easier to make.
The day will begin with “God Save The King” as the national anthem, with King Charles III now in place. Had rain not washed out the entirety of the first day following the toss, which Stokes won, choosing to bowl first, “God Save The Queen” would have been played.
The opening day washout means 98 overs are scheduled for the remaining three days. The series is currently tied 1-1, with South Africa bidding to strengthen their position in the World Test Championship table – they are currently second on points percentage, behind Australia.
Vithushan Ehantharajah is an associate editor for ESPNcricinfo