Test Match Sofa
South Africa close in on win
Daniel Brigham at Lord's
England's reign as the No.1 Test team appears to have only one more day left after a double-wicket burst from Vernon Philander left them on 16 for 2 chasing a record 346 runs for victory.
After another day when the advantage kept swinging between the two sides, a fine Hashim Amla century, some more lower-order resistance and another dropped catch pushed South Africa to 351 all out and put them in control. Nine times teams have chased more than 346 wins to win, but never England. Yet, on a pitch that was still behaving, hope was retained among the Lord's crowd. That was soon extinguished when England lost both of their openers inside the first four overs.
Alastair Cook went first, Philander getting the ball to nip back in and Cook was plumb in front for 3. In Philander's next over Andrew Strauss shouldered arms to a full delivery that stayed straight and hit him on the bottom of the knee roll. It was a disastrous leave and the mark of a scrambled, tired mind. Jonathan Trott and Ian Bell managed to see out the rest of the day but England will need something astonishing tomorrow to keep a grip on their No.1 status.
Amla's 121 was his 16th Test century, and his ninth in this last 21 Tests (four of those unbeaten, including the triple at The Oval and a double at Nagpur). He carried on where he left off yesterday, accumulating runs by stealth and skill. He is in such a rich vein of form that he must be the best batsman in the world right now. His 95-run partnership with AB de Villiers pushed South Africa into a dominant position, although they both benefited from good fortune. Prior dropped Amla on 2 last night and today James Anderson somehow missed a dolly from De Villiers at short midwicket off Swann when he was on 8. The two drops have resulted in 154 bonus runs for South Africa, runs that would prove decisive in almost any match.
They both fell within a couple of over of one another. Last night it was Steven Finn who clawed England back into the game with the late wicket of Jacques Kallis and he was at it again today. Amla and De Villiers had pushed the lead to 253 runs, with Amla looking immoveable. The Finn, held back for a few overs from the new ball, struck. Bowling from the pavilion end he used the Lord's slope masterfully.
First he got one to straighten up and take the top of Amla's off stump. In his next over he produced another beauty, again getting it to straighten up and find De Villiers' edge, Strauss taking his 121st Test catch - an English record for an outfielder. Jacques Rudolph was the next to go, this time Finn showing he's as good from around the wicket as over, getting the ball to again straighten and nibble away from Rudolph, who edged it behind to Matt Prior. It was seven overs of hostility and control, vindicating England's decision to pick him ahead of Tim Bresnan.
But just as the door appeared to be opening for South Africa, JP Duminy and Vernon Philander registered their second fifty partnership of the Test to close it. Although the final three wickets finally fell in quick succession, South Africa will have been delighted with a lead of 345 runs.
The only wicket to fall in the morning session was nightwatchman Dale Steyn, who hung around stoically for 45 minutes until Stuart Broad got him fending at a lifter and James Taylor took the catch at short leg. That brought Amla and De Villiers together, who survived to lunch despite a few jitters. Lunch was taken five minutes early because of the dark, bulbous clouds that had suddenly built up. They pushed in like the start of the apocalypse, providing a rather handy metaphor for the likely demise of England as the best team in the world.
Terms & Conditions
Developed by Proximity Solutions
Proximity PS Web
2007 - 2013