Cricket: England face massive last day task at Lord’s
ENGLAND must rewrite their own history, and that of Lord’s, to win the third Investec Test against South Africa and salvage their world number one status.
After Steven Finn (four for 74) did most to bowl the tourists out for 351 on the fourth evening, England were set 346 to win here and share the series.
That alone will stop South Africa replacing Andrew Strauss’ team at the top of the International Cricket Council Test table - and to achieve that end, England must record their own highest successful fourth-innings chase as well as the best too by anyone at the home of cricket.
Finn took two big wickets in successive overs on a searingly hot afternoon to help keep English hopes just about alive. The 6ft 8in seamer twice found telling movement up the slope, on his home ground, to see off centurion Hashim Amla and then AB de Villiers with the second new ball.
England had received scant reward for their efforts before lunch, and did not help their own cause by dropping another crucial catch.
Amla (121), South Africa’s first Test triple centurion in their landslide win at The Oval, was dropped by Matt Prior on Saturday when on just two. Then yesterday morning De Villiers escaped on eight when James Anderson put down a straightforward low chance at midwicket off Graeme Swann – the eighth catch missed by England in this series.
Finn and Anderson tried to apply the pressure from the outset on an increasingly cloudy morning. But it was not until Strauss made a double change that Stuart Broad dismissed nightwatchman Dale Steyn, trying to fend off the latest in a succession of short balls and offering a simple catch off the shoulder of the bat to short-leg.
De Villiers announced himself with successive boundaries from his first two balls, pulled fine off Broad and then down the wicket to hit Swann over mid-on. It looked a hammer blow when Anderson then continued his uncharacteristic recent trend of dropped catches after Swann had deceived De Villiers in the air.
That impression was underlined as England began to settle into damage limitation before the second new ball. After an unexpected lunchtime shower, Amla passed his 182-ball hundred with a skilful cut for his ninth four – and it was only when Finn began to gather momentum that England had a lifeline.
Finn had bowled Amla through the gate in the first innings, with one that nipped down the slope; this time he got one to go the other way, beat the defence and hit off-stump to end a stand of 85.
Twelve balls later, he had De Villiers too, edging a little extra bounce to slip where Strauss took his 121st catch, the most by any fielder in English Test history.
Finn was not finished either, and before tea had Jacques Rudolph edging behind to Prior. It took another 17.2 overs in the evening session to end the innings, as JP Duminy and Vernon Philander held the hosts up longest in an eighth-wicket stand of 54 – before Philander slapped an Anderson long-hop straight to point.
An alert piece of stumping by Prior off Swann then did for Morne Morkel, and Anderson clean-bowled last man Imran Tahir to leave Duminy unbeaten after 93 balls of defiance.
He had contributed only 26 runs, but nonetheless done much to make England’s mission improbable even more so.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Wednesday 22 May 2013
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Temperature: 5 C to 11 C
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