England’s all-time leading wicket-taker James Anderson had to settle for just three as he and Roland-Jones (5-57) shared most of the spoils in South Africa’s 175 all out at The Oval.
The tourists were 61-7 at one stage but recovered, thanks principally to Temba Bavuma (52) before he was last out to Roland-Jones on a rain-shortened third day of the third Test on Saturday.
There was still time for England to enhance their lead of 178 by a further 74-1 as Keaton Jennings rode his luck a little. Tom Westley also needed some fortune as well as skill to keep the hosts in control, despite losing 59 overs to the bad weather.
At stumps, Anderson reflected on Roland-Jones’s dream debut and Jennings’s and Westley’s success in following the first-innings example of batsmanship from Alastair Cook and centurion Ben Stokes.
Anderson took five wickets on debut in 2003 against Zimbabwe at Lord’s and, on the eve of his own 35th birthday, he was taken by the maturity of 29-year-old Roland-Jones.
“I was very impressed,” he said. “It’s not often you see a debutant settle as quickly as he did, and it was brilliant to see.
“He looked very comfortable and very confident. He knows his action, knows his game very well.”
Roland-Jones also had conditions to suit, with cloud cover throughout on Friday especially.
“It’s a perfect pitch for him,” added Anderson.
“He’s a very intelligent cricketer and he thoroughly deserved his five wickets.”
He expects Roland-Jones’s skills will travel well, if he is destined for next winter’s Ashes. “Yes, definitely,” said Anderson.
“He gets bounce, he can swing the ball, seam it, so he’s got all the attributes to do well in Australia. But he’s only one game in, so we’ll just take things one step at a time.”
Bavuma also had praise for Roland-Jones. “Definitely, you can see why he’s making his debut for England,” he said.
“He definitely exploited the conditions and made use of everything that was out there. He’s a good bowler.”
Jennings’s unbeaten 34 was a relief after three runs in his last three innings, but Anderson reports the opener has not appeared careworn despite his struggles.
“He’s been pretty good,” said Anderson.
“Sometimes you do see it in people when they go through a bad trot, you can see them struggling in and around the group.
“But he’s dealt with it very well. Obviously, it’s been frustrating for him, but seeing how he got through that tricky period that might be what he needs to kick-start a good run of form.”
Following last week’s defeat at Trent Bridge, Anderson was highly encouraged by England’s combined efforts, with special mention for Westley and Jennings’s unbroken stand.
“For those two to get through that was a really good effort,” he said.
“We came under a lot of scrutiny after the Trent Bridge Test and I think the guys wanted to go out and show what we’re made of.
“And I think the way Cookie and Stokesy in particular batted in the first innings was outstanding, on a pitch that was very bowler-friendly.
“We want to try to develop into a great side and great sides don’t win one, lose one, win one, lose one. We need to stop that sequence if we can.”
Anderson believed the surface would continue to play a few tricks.
“There’s been signs. A few have bounced and a few have kept low,” he said.
“There’s signs of it deteriorating a little bit and there’s still plenty there with the seam movement.”