London: Fast bowler Steven Finn produced an inspired three-wicket burst to revive England’s fading hopes of a series-equalling victory as South Africa reached 306 for seven at tea on the fourth day of the third and final test at Lord’s on Sunday.
The Proteas led by 300 runs at the interval with JP Duminy 18 not out and Vernon Philander on 11. Finn claimed the key scalps of Hashim Amla (121), after he registered his 16th test hundred, AB de Villiers (43) and Jacques Rudolph (11).
Finn, on his home ground, took three for 14 in 29 balls to breathe fresh life into England’s victory bid when Amla and de Villiers had seemingly ended their hopes. Finn had figures of four for 60 at the interval.
England must win to level the series after losing the first test by an innings and 12 runs and drawing the second match. South Africa will leapfrog England to the top of the world rankings if they can avoid defeat here.
Amla was bowled by Finn after a typically solid innings spanning 205 deliveries. The ball held its line up the famous Lord’s slope and clipped his off stump. England will no doubt rue dropping him on two, when wicketkeeper Matt Prior spilled a leg-side opportunity the previous evening.
De Villiers, also dropped - on eight by James Anderson off Graeme Swann, edged Finn to Andrew Strauss at first slip to give the England captain his 121st test catch and the record for an England fielder, ahead of Ian Botham and Colin Cowdrey.
Finn then had Rudolph caught by Prior to make the score 282 for seven. With just four sessions remaining in the game, time is running out for England to take the final three South Africa wickets and leave themselves a manageable target.
There was only one wicket to fall in the morning session as night-watchman Dale Steyn departed for nine after courageously battling for 44 minutes in the day against a short-pitched barrage. He spooned a catch up to James Taylor at short leg off the bowling of Stuart Broad.
Only West Indies have successfully chased a total of 300 or more at Lord’s to win a test, when Gordon Greenidge scored an exhilarating 214 not out in 1984.