England’s hopes of clinching a series-leveling win in the third Test were receding on the fourth morning as South Africa extended their lead to 210 runs at lunch yesterday, with A.B. de Villiers crucially dropped before he had reached double figures.
The Proteas were 216 for four at Lord’s with the ever-reliable Hashim Amla 94 not out, approaching a 16th Test century, and De Villiers on 24.
With just five sessions remaining in the game, time was running out for England to dismiss South Africa and leave a manageable target they could attain to draw the series 1-1.
Only one wicket fell in the morning session as nightwatchman Dale Steyn departed for 9 after courageously battling for 44 minutes in the day against a short-pitched barrage. He eventually lobbed a catch up to James Taylor at short-leg off the bowling of Stuart Broad.
South Africa might have been reduced to 177 for five had James Anderson not dropped a straightforward chance from the dangerous De Villiers at midwicket off Graeme Swann’s off-spin. Anderson, until recently, fielded at slip to Swann.
It was the second costly miss of the innings after Matt Prior floored a catch down the leg-side when Amla was on 2 the previous evening. Prior later revealed that it was his first drop in two years, standing back.
Batting conditions were perfect under bright sunshine when play resumed, though for the hour before lunch dark clouds hovered overhead, causing the floodlights to be switched on.
The umpires took the players off five minutes before the scheduled lunch interval because of rain.
The second new ball was due just after the interval and it was likely to be England’s last chance of redemption in the series.
On Saturday, South Africa had closed on 145 for three after England claimed the wickets of Proteas captain Graeme Smith (23) and fellow opener Alviro Petersen (24) after tea, then the key scalp of Jacques Kallis (31) late on.
“It was fantastic [to get Kallis at the end],” England’s Johnny Bairstow told reporters. “We were toiling hard all afternoon, so to come away with that important wicket was fantastic. It’s pretty level now. There’s two days to go and a lot of cricket left. If we can get a few early wickets, we will be looking to chase down whatever they set us.”
“If someone said at the start of the series that we would be 1-0 up and 150 ahead with two days left, we would have taken that,” South Africa assistant coach Russell Domingo said. “We think we are in a good position tonight. If we can score another 80 or 90 runs in the morning, that will put England under some pressure.”
Kallis showed dissent at his reviewed dismissal for the second time in the match. Kallis and Amla had put on 81 and were solid for the most part, ominously so for England, who would have remembered their third-wicket partnership of 377 at The Oval in the first Test, but they were separated when Kallis fell leg before wicket to Steven Finn.
Kallis instantly called for a review, giving the impression he had hit it, but hotspot and regular replays did not show evidence to support the batsman’s protest. He walked off visibly annoyed and shaking his head.
England must win to level the series after losing the first Test by an innings and 12 runs, then drawing the second match.
South Africa would leapfrog England to the top of the world rankings if they avoid defeat.