|Ground:||Lord's Cricket Ground, St John's Wood|
|Scorecard:||England v South Africa|
|Event:||South Africa in England 2012|
DateLine: 21st August 2012
England v South Africa, 3rd Test, 5th day
In association with Investec.
Although it was expected on the final day that South Africa would comfortably be victorious in the third Test and take the series, clinching the No. 1 world Test ranking from England, little did one think that England would go down battling to the extent that the margin of defeat would be just 51 runs, having been set a target of 346. It was the heroic efforts of the lower order batsmen that created pulsating periods late in the afternoon that enthralled the crowd and raised their hopes.
England captain Andrew Strauss said: "It was an outstanding Test, really first class cricket by both teams. Some captivating viewing today as we were never favourites to win but the spirit that the guys showed, they came with the never-say-die attitude and what they displayed was a great credit to all players. But obviously South Africa were the better side not just in this Test but in the series and they thoroughly deserved their victory."
Resuming their second innings on the fifth morning on 16 for two and needing a further 330 to achieve an unlikely victory which would enable them to draw the three Test series, England batted positively to begin with. While Ian Bell was defensive, Jonathan Trott played his strokes surprisingly freely for a batsman who typically is not an aggressive player. He hit two quick boundaries in his first twelve runs of the morning and then increased his scoring rate. Bell, however, had not added to his overnight score of 4 when he edged Vernon Philander to first slip where Graeme Smith held on to the ball on second attempt.
Trott went on to take two consecutive fours off Jacques Kallis, a flick to square leg and a fine square drive past point. But he was dropped on the next ball at third slip on 37. Meanwhile England lost their fourth wicket with James Taylor run out for 4. Refusing a fourth run, Trott sent Taylor back to see him stranded half way down the pitch in only his second Test match and that was the fourth wicket down for 45.
A good crowd for the last day were well entertained during the fifth wicket stand between Trott and Jonny Bairstow as they put on 89. Of those runs Bairstow had 54 from just 47 balls. He had once again given a fine display of attractive strokes just as he had done in the first innings when he missed his maiden Test century by just five runs. In his first twenty runs he hit four boundaries in eight balls which included a perfectly timed straight drive off Dale Steyn.
He then hit the leg spinner Imran Tahir for two consecutive boundaries, the first over the bowlerís head and then a sweep which brought up the fifty of the stand. The hundred came up on the scoreboard from 214 balls, the second fifty of which took just 44 balls with Bairstow in full flow. Trott reached his twelfth Test half century from 126 balls and at lunch England were 120 for four with Bairstow on 43 from 36 balls.
Three overs after the break Bairstow having reached his second half century of the match from 41 balls, when he hit Philander for his eighth boundary, went back instead of forward to a big leg spin from Tahir, to be bowled for 54. Trott didnít go on for long after, on 63, he edged his attempted off drive for a brilliant diving catch by Kallis at second slip. He had helped to prolong the England innings with a three-and-a-half hour stay at the crease.
England continued to make the opposition work hard for the wickets. Stuart Broad joined Prior for a 62-run partnership in which Broad struck the first six of the innings high into the grand stand off Steyn. But on 37 from 42 balls he hooked a bouncer from Kallis into the hands of Hashim Amla at fine leg. At tea, England on 221 for seven were still needing 125 and Prior was on 35.
The final session suddenly and unexpectedly seemed to give England an unlikely chance of pulling off an incredible win. A cameo innings of 41 of which 32 came from boundaries by Graeme Swann took England to 282. He faced just 32 balls, entertaining the crowd with hard hitting shots which brought him two sixes. But Matt Prior, Englandís man of the series, with 73 looked the most dangerous and indeed his innings took England much closer to the target than was expected. It was eventually with the second new ball that Philander, the man of the match with five for 50 wrapped up the game.
Graeme Smith, South Africa's captain said: "It was a top Test match, the wicket played its part, both teams played really well. I think England played with a lot of freedom with nothing to lose in this game. We really had to set up the game and work hard. There was some great batting from Graeme Swann and Matt Prior some terrific shots that put us under pressure. But we stayed with the belief, you have those nervous moments but you have got to stay focused."
(Article: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author only.
Copyright © 2012 Andy Jalil)