By BV Swagath
South Africa are in a great position to win the Third Test at Lord’s and finish the series 2-0 as a superb opening spell from Vernon Philander has reduced the hosts to 16 for 2 in a run chase of 346 during the fourth day’s play on Sunday! England are now on the defensive with the 16 runs coming in 13 overs at the loss of its two openers.
Asked to chase a stiff target of 346, the hosts lost Alastair Cook (3) in the second over itself as he played outside the line of an inswinger from Vernon Philander to get lbw. Skipper Andrew Strauss (1), who just had no clue about which way Philander was going to swing or the seam the ball around, was also dismissed lbw. Strauss went back to a good length delivery and nervously offered no shot hoping that the ball would angle away from his stumps. However, it was an inswinger from Philander which came back to hit the pad in line of middle.
By Stumps on Day 4, England have Jonathan Trott (6* from 39 balls) batting along with Ian Bell (4* from 26 balls). The duo is followed up by the inexperienced pair of James Taylor and Jonny Bairstow and the writing seems to be clear on the wall of a South African victory.
Early in the day, Hashim Amla batted with grit to score his 16th Test century. Amla went onto score 121 (from 205 balls with 10 fours). England struggled to get quick wickets but once the second new ball was available, the fortunes changed thanks to a brilliant spell from Steven Finn. First he got Amla bowled with one that straightened off a length, then got AB de Villiers (43 from 100 balls) dabbing a lifter from good length to the slips, and then forced Jacques Rudolph (11) to edge him behind on the backfoot.
South Africa at 282 for 7 still looked good with a lead of 288 but needed some more runs to feel comfortable about defending. It was a pitch that was looking difficult to bat on against the new ball but once it lost the shine, the surface seemed to be flattening out. South Africa as a result got through a crucial 54-run stand between JP Duminy (26* from 93 balls) and Vernon Philander (35 from 67 balls) which batted England out of the contest. South Africa eventually folded to 351 having kept England on the field for 124.2 overs.