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English cricket says farewell to Queen Elizabeth II at the Oval

The Oval fell silent on Saturday before the start of the third day's play in the third Test between England and South Africa.

The Oval has known many ‘departures’ given it often stages the last Test of an English cricket season, with Australia great Don Bradman and former England captain Alastair Cook taking their leave of the international stage at the ground.

But the south London venue fell silent on Saturday before the start of the third day’s play in the third Test between England and South Africa for a farewell of a very different sort as the ground paid tribute to Queen Elizabeth II. 

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The death of Britain’s longest-serving monarch at the age of 96 on Thursday had led the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) to abandon Friday’s play.

And with Thursday’s opening day washed out, it meant what should have been a five-day match had now been reduced to a three-day game.

Unlike their counterparts at English football’s Premier League, who have suspended their fixtures this weekend, the ECB decided to resume play Saturday.

‘Incredible inspiration’

“It’s been very sad news for not only the nation but the world with the Queen’s passing,” England captain Ben Stokes told Sky Sports before play resumed.

“She was someone who dedicated her life to the nation, someone that we take incredible inspiration from and we are honoured to be able to walk out on the field in memory of the Queen.”

The all-rounder added: “We know how much the Queen loved this sport, and the show must go on. I’m sure she’ll be looking down on all the sport that’s still going ahead over this weekend and that we’re going out there in her honour. I’m very pleased and proud we can do that.”

As spectators took their seats at the Oval, they would have noticed a few changes, with the usual advertising signs on the perimeter hoardings replaced by black and white messages marking the death of the Queen.

Then, ten minutes before the scheduled start of play at 11:00 am (1000 GMT), the players and match officials — all wearing black armbands as a sign of respect — walked onto the outfield through a military guard of honour.

ALSO READ: PICS: Queen Elizabeth with South African sporting stars

Under grey skies, and with the Union flag flying alone above the pavilion — where the England and South Africa flags would usually have been on display as well — a near capacity crowd of 27,500 then observed a minute’s silence.

With the teams and officials still lined up in front of the pavilion, professional singer Laura Wright — well known for her performances at sporting events — sung the South African national anthem unaccompanied as the crowd listened in silence before politely applauding.

Wright then delivered the first performance of ‘God Save the King’, Britain’s now slightly but significantly altered national anthem, at a major sporting event since the Queen’s death, with the crowd — most of whom had never known about anything but ‘God Save the Queen’ joining in before a ripple of applause went round England’s oldest Test match ground.

Then, their duty done, the crowd roared in James Anderson as the England great bowled the first ball of the match. 

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