Proteas nearly there
A DEVASTATING opening spell by Vernon Philander yesterday put South Africa on the brink of a historic victory at Lord's, which will make them number one test nation in the world.
The Cape Cobra struck in successive overs to send Alastair Cook and captain Andrew Strauss back to the pavilion with just six runs on the board. Cook was beaten by pure pace, while Strauss decided to leave a ball which was slightly fuller and which smacked into his back pad. Neither bothered to review.
Going into the final day, chasing 346 to win, England need to score another 330 to retain their title. Their previous highest successful run chase was 332 against Australia.
South Africa were able to offer this formidable target on the foundation of a fine, gritty 121 from Hashim Amla and a fighting rearguard effort marshalled by JP Duminy, which added 83 runs for the last four wickets.
In between, Steve Finn, with a brilliant spell with the new ball, threatened to derail the innings, taking three wickets, including Amla's, for 14 runs off 29 balls.
It certainly will not go down as Amla's most elegant century: he was dropped on two by Matt Prior, and had a couple of close calls for lbw and a thick edge inside past the stumps on the first day, but he knew what was required yesterday morning.
The new ball was to wreak havoc, as it has done so often in this match, most noticeably in the hands of the 2m-tall Finn. Amla had added just one more four when he played inside the line to a ball which straightened up the slope and hit the off stump.
He had never really looked comfortable against Finn, who bowled superbly with extra bounce and pace, putting him in two minds.
AB de Villiers was drawn forward by another ball from Finn on a perfect length to snick behind and Rudolph followed five overs later in similar fashion.
Against De Villiers, England let another chance slip: Anderson dropped a straightforward catch at short-midwicket off Swann when he was on eight. It was as simple a catch as could be given and he went on to add another 35 valuable runs.
Amla's 16th test century was his second at Lord's, and on reaching his new milestone, he signalled the dressing room to pay tribute to the video analyst, Prasanna Agoram, with whom he had worked so hard to tighten up his technique.