|Ground:||Lord's Cricket Ground, St John's Wood|
|Scorecard:||England v South Africa, Australia Under-19s v India Under-19s|
|Event:||South Africa in England 2012|
DateLine: 19th August 2012
England v South Africa, 3rd Test, 4th day
In association with Investec.
South Africa are poised to win the final Investec Test and with it the three-Test series to take over the world No.1 Test ranking from England. After another fine all round performance by South Africa on the fourth day which saw Hashim Amla hit his sixteenth Test century, in a second innings total of 351, the tourists set England a target of 346 to win in the thirteen overs remaining for the day plus all of the fifth day.
The highest that England have scored to win a Test batting in the fourth innings on this ground was 282 for three against New Zealand in 2004. The highest by England anywhere was 332 for seven in Melbourne in 1928/29. So history does not support their effort, particularly when they began so poorly losing both opening batsmen within four overs to be struggling on two for six.
Earlier, it took England nine overs before claiming the first wicket of the day and that was only of the nightwatchman Dale Steyn. South Africa had resumed their second innings on 145 for three with Hashim Amla on 57 and by the fall of Steyn’s wicket they had added 19 runs. Thereafter, the England bowlers were made to struggle for a wicket. Amla played precisely the kind of innings needed by his side as the lead overnight was only 139 he was required to build on it and he ensured that with watchful batting, cutting out any risky shots.
After Steyn had popped a catch to short leg off Broad for 9, Amla and AB de Villiers settled into a solid partnership. With fine running between the wickets between the two, Amla picked up runs with singles and two’s but de Villiers went for the bigger shots. His first two scoring strokes were boundaries first a pull off Stuart Broad and then he stepped out to hit Graeme Swann to mid-wicket. But on 8 he was dropped at short mid-wicket when he clipped Swann.
He continued with his aggressive strokes taking another four off Swann at mid-off with a lofted shot and later in his innings a flick to long leg took him to 38. Meanwhile lunch had been taken with South Africa on 216 for four and Amla had gradually got to 94, playing stylishly with wristy strokes. He wasn’t bothered about playing powerful shots, just perfect timing and placements as he took his runs and from England’s prospective he was looking ominously comfortable.
There was a fifteen minute delayed start after lunch and the first over saw Amla to his hundred. He clipped Jonathan Trott for two to long leg to get to 96 and four balls later cut him for his ninth boundary to reach three figures from 245 balls. There were several lovely strokes that he had played and his last boundary, a classic cover drive off Broad which took him to 112 was as good as any.
England had meanwhile taken the second new ball as soon as it became due but it made little difference to either batsman until the ninth over. On 121 Amla, having batted for a shade under five hours, was bowled by Steve Finn and the total was 259 for five. It ended a stand of 95, the highest of the innings. With Amla gone after another great innings in this series – not many will forget his unbeaten triple century only a month ago in the first Test – England were quick to strike again.
Finn in his next over found the outside edge of de Villiers’ bat to give Andrew Strauss a catch at first slip with just seven runs added to the total. The tall pace bowler, playing on his home ground, being a Middlesex county player, was bowling with excellent control and he struck for the third time in a nineteen-ball spell to have Jacques Rudolph caught behind for 11. He had conceded just 14 runs in that spell and the tourists were now reduced to 282 for seven.
Vernon Philander, having played a valuable innings of 61 in the first innings, once again made a very useful contribution of 35 in a 54-run stand with JP Duminy. By the time he was out cutting uppishly into the hands of backward point, South Africa had gone into a comfortable lead of 330. Twelve runs later, a close stumping decision by the third umpire saw Morne Morkel dismissed for 9. Anderson bowled the last man to wrap up the innings. His last spell of 4.2 overs gave him the two wickets for nine. Duminy remained unbeaten on 26 in a little under two-and-a-half-hours, during which he batted stoically in holding the innings together after the fall of three quick wickets.
(Article: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author only.
Copyright © 2012 Andy Jalil)