England claimed three early wickets to leave South Africa stuttering in their pursuit of 331 at Lord’s. Hashim Amla remained unbeaten.
They had been given a chance by an excellent bowling performance, as South Africa wrapped up England’s innings midway through the afternoon session. While that represented a remarkable comeback, it also left them needing a score only a little way short of the record chase at Lord’s and the procession of England batsmen would have observed the condition of the pitch with interest, as nine wickets fell in 36.1 overs with only Jonny Bairstow’s 51 holding off total collapse.
Bairstow was last man out, stumped off Keshav Maharaj to give the spinner a four-wicket haul. At lunch, England’s lead was 279 but Bairstow and Mark Wood scraped together valuable extra runs during a brisk ninth-wicket stand of 45. Apart from Alastair Cook and Gary Ballance, who added 10 and 11 respectively to their overnight scores, no other batsmen managed to get into double-figures.
The trend continued when South Africa came out to bat. Dean Elgar reviewed successfully to overturn an lbw decision granted to Stuart Broad but, after the openers had ground out 12 runs from seven overs, James Anderson made the breakthrough, having Heino Kuhn superbly taken by the diving Bairstow down the leg side.
The introduction of Moeen Ali came soon after and he removed Elgar via a brilliant reflex catch off a well-struck drive. Then, moments before the tea interval, Wood was the beneficiary of a poor shot from JP Duminy, well held again by Moeen at midwicket.
Bairstow’s half-century helped take England past 200 after they had slipped to 149 for 5 but he required the benefit of a life. He only had 7 when trying to hit Maharaj down the ground, only for Vernon Philander, who was fit to bowl after injuring his hand batting on the third day, to drop a simple catch at long-off. Wood also only just managed to clear Duminy running back from mid-on when he had made 4 but stuck around to add four boundaries and several scampered singles before Kagiso Rabada hit his off stump.
South Afirca’s bowlers enjoyed a devastating morning, taking seven wickets at a cost of 63 runs – although, at the same time, every success increased the sense that they may have a difficult chase on. The speed of England’s demise seemed to have ruled out the possibility of a draw with more than 50 over remaining in the fourth day.
Maharaj claimed three of the wickets to fall in the first session, amid increasing signs of the pitch breaking up. The dismissal of Cook for 69, caught at cover attempting to lift the scoring, precipitated an England collapse of 4 for 10 in 39 balls – which would have been 5 for 19 had Bairstow’s offering been held.
Bairstow and Moeen Ali decided on a hit-out-or-get-out strategy, adding 31 in 7.2 overs to edge England’s lead up. Moeen was then bowled by a Maharaj delivery that ripped out of the footmarks as he came down the pitch, before Liam Dawson completed a pair when he was bowled by a Rabada full toss – apparently unsighted only for it to hit the top of middle stump. There were no tail-end frolics from Stuart Broad this time either, as he was taken at short leg off Maharaj for a golden duck moments before lunch.
The evidence of the first over of the morning was that the Lord’s baize was by now a little rumpled. At least two deliveries from Philander kept low before the last jumped to hit Ballance on the glove. When Maharaj came into the attack shortly before the hour mark, the first ball of his second over went directly to slip off the pitch; the same over concluded with Joe Root being bowled by one that didn’t turn.