Steven Finn revealed England let him off the leash late on day four in pursuit of one last South African wicket.
Finn had already removed first-innings centurion Dean Elgar and home captain Hashim Amla when he was called on to turn in a final spell before stumps in Durban.
Jonny Bairstow, who had earlier top-scored with 79 in England’s 326 all out, had just missed a tough stumping to dismiss key man AB de Villiers and Finn was encouraged to go all out in the closing moments. He duly got one to rise at Faf du Plessis, taking the edge and leaving the hosts 136 for four in pursuit of a dim and distant 416.
“For a lot of the final session we tried to build pressure, bowling to quite funky fields, but Ottis [Gibson, bowling coach] and Stuart Broad said to me at drinks, ‘just bowl as quick as you can, hit the deck as hard as you can’,” explained Finn. “So I just charged in and hit the wicket as hard as I could and luckily got a bit more bounce.
“There are times when you have to settle in and keep runs down but the way I tend to be used in Test matches is to come on and break partnerships, take wickets. That suits me.”
The 6ft 7in seamer was a late addition to the touring squad, having suffered a bone stress injury in his left foot ahead of the Pakistan away series in October. Not only was he able to link up with the squad, he bowled himself into the first XI ahead of Chris Jordan and Mark Footitt and is once again taking big wickets.
Finn has never really struggled for dismissals during his Test career, with 107 in 27 matches to date, but that has not always been enough.
Until making his comeback during this summer’s Ashes, he had spent two years out of the side having originally been dropped for a lack of control. Finn is now well through the other side of a rocky patch and enjoying himself enough to smile when asked about his “knack” for wickets.
“What you’re saying is I bowl rubbish but pick up wickets, is that it?” he joked. “Geoffrey Boycott just said the same thing outside. But you need 20 wickets to win a match.
“As much as scoring runs is a nice knack for a batsman, taking wickets is nice knack to have as a bowler. I’ve learned my game a lot more as the years have gone on and I feel a far better bowler than I was five years ago when I first played international cricket.”
Although the Kingsmead pitch is playing few tricks as the game progresses, England have done enough to be considered firm favourites to finish the job on day five. And while that would be an easier task if the supremely talented De Villiers had been out overnight, Finn insists he is only one part of a bigger equation.
He added: “He averages 50-odd in Tests so he’s a very important player for them, one of the best in the world, but as long as we get six more wickets tomorrow I don’t care which six we get.” l Mitchell Marsh claimed the key wickets of Denesh Ramdin and Jason Holder as Australia wrapped up a 177-run victory in the second Test against West Indies with a day to spare.
A century partnership between Ramdin and Holder (68) frustrated the hosts but Marsh, who recorded second-innings figures of four for 61, inspired a late collapse to leave West Indies all out for 282 in their chase as Australia clinched the series 2-0 and kept the Frank Worrell Trophy for 20 uninterrupted years.