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With the world no.1 ranking up for grabs there was no room for half-measures, and the Proteas, 1-0 up in the series, took the brave decision of opting to bat first under overcast skies on the opening day of the third and final test at Lord's. That decision backfired miserably as South Africa slid to 54-4 before lunch on the opening morning with Steve Finn picking up 3 early wickets to rattle the Proteas early. The South African middle order though showed plenty of gumption and battled their way to 262-7 by the close of play with JP Duminy top scoring with 61. James Anderson also chipped in with 3 wickets over the course of the day, but the last hour belonged to Vernon Philander, who scored a crucial unbeaten 46 to keep the Proteas in this contest.
The Proteas named an unchanged line-up for the third straight game and would hope their top order would continue to plunder runs against the England bowlers, who got some of their own back late in the 2nd Test. England meanwhile had a couple of changes to their side from the last game with Graeme Swann returning to the playing eleven, but in place of Tim Brensnan, with local lad Steve Finn getting the nod to be the third seamer. Meanwhile Kevin Pietersen's indiscretions had cost him his place in the squad and the South African born Englishman was replaced by rookie Jonny Bairstow.
The test was special for a number of reasons, but doubly so for England captain Andrew Strauss, who became the 9th Englishman to play in 100 Test matches today. As if that was not enough for Strauss, he was also captaining his side for the 50th time.
The opening hour of the test match belonged to the home side as both opening bowlers James Anderson and Stuart Broad got just enough movement from a fresh pitch to beat the bat. It was Anderson who was rewarded for his patience with Graeme Smith nicking one through to the keeper, given out on the TV review with hot spot showing a healthy edge which Umpire Dharamsena had no chance of hearing with the batsman hitting the ground just nano-seconds later. Smith fell for 14 to leave the Proteas in some early trouble at 22-1.
Things got better for England as Steve Finn, who came on to replace Stuart Broad picked up two wickets in his 5th over to send back Alviro Petersen (22) and Hashim Amla (13). Petersen was caught strangled down to the leg side with Matt Prior taking an excellent catch, while Amla was bowled by a brute of a delivery possible only by a bowler who knew the exact length to hit to ensure that the ball clipped the stumps.
At 50-3, South Africa were suddenly in a world of trouble, and their morning at Lord's became a lot worse when Jacques Kallis was also ruled out caught down the legside by the TV Umpire with once again Dharamasena having given the decision in favour of the batsman. Umpire Rod Tucker's decision though appeared to be a poor one with Kallis' hand clearly not touching the bat when contact was made with the ball. The veteran allrounder trudged off dumbfounded by the decision while England celebrated some early luck going their way.
South Africa took lunch at 65-4 with AB de Villiers and Jacques Rudolph the men in the firing lining.
De Villiers and Rudolph offered some staunch resistance after lunch, adding 51 vital runs for the 5th wicket against the moving ball before the former fell for 27. De Villiers had barely survived a rather vociferous leg before appeal from James Anderson and the unpredictable TV Umpire before the swing specialist found the outside edge of his bat.
Rudolph and JP Duminy then added 46 runs before the Tea break to add some semblance of respectability to the South African score, which read a rather appalling 151-5.
The partnership did not last long after Tea with Rudolph falling to a spinner for the third time in a row in the series with Graeme Swann getting rid of the left-hander for 42.
At 163-6, the game was there for England to take control of, provided they could knock over the South African tail. However, Vernon Philander proved to be a tough cookie to crack, and added 72 runs for the 7th wicket with JP Duminy, who brought up the first half-century of the day. Duminy though threw his wicket away chasing the fresh new cherry when it was just three balls old, only to nick it through to the keeper.
Philander though continued to plunder runs and ended the day unbeaten on 46, he'll hope to get the 4 runs he needs to get his maiden test half-century tomorrow. Dale Steyn kept Philander excellent company at the end of the day, contributing 21 runs of his own to bolster the Proteas' total. At 262-7, the lower middle order has already resurrected the innings considerably, giving South Africa cause for hope.
England though will be keen to wipe out the tail early tomorrow, and make use of the best batting conditions on day 2 and 3 of this test match as they chase a now very much possible win in an attempt to level the series.
England: A Cook, A Strauss(c), J Trott, J Bairstow, I Bell, J Taylor, M Prior(wk), S Broad, S Finn, G Swann, J Anderson
South Africa: A Petersen, G Smith(c), H Amla, J Kallis, AB de Villiers(wk), J Rudolph, JP Duminy, V Philander, D Steyn, M Morkel, I Tahir
South Africa 262-7 (86.4, 2.98rpo)
JP Duminy 61 (158) J Anderson 3-58
V Philander 46* (64) S Finn 3-68
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