x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

South Africa look down the barrel

England were yesterday pushing for victory in the final Test after their seamers made steady inroads into South Africa's top order at the Oval.

South Africa's Ashwell Prince tries to sweep England's Monty Panesar during the fourth day at the Oval.
South Africa's Ashwell Prince tries to sweep England's Monty Panesar during the fourth day at the Oval.

LONDON // England were yesterday pushing for victory in the final Test after their seamers made steady inroads into South Africa's top order at the Oval. A late rearguard action from AB de Villiers and Paul Harris on the either side of the tea break, however, had them breathing a bit easy as the visitors moved to 304-7, a lead of 182, about half hour into the final session.

Resuming the fourth day 12 runs adrift from the deficit of 122 runs after most of the previous day was washed out by showers, South Africa had hoped to build a big enough lead to give them any chance of a fightback. But despite a valiant 76 from the overnight batsman Hashim Amla, South Africa slumped to 265-7 at tea. The Durham fast bowler Steve Harmison got England off to a flying start by dismissing both Amla and Jacques Kallis early. Harmison, making his first Test appearance since March, delivered a superb spell of 8-5-12-2 and made the important early breakthrough by removing Amla.

Attempting to fend off a short ball in the third over of the day, Amla only succeeded in edging wide of wicketkeeper Tim Ambrose, who dived to his right and took the catch after a fumble. Ten overs later, Kallis could not make the most of a reprieve from Pietersen off Harmison as he edged the next delivery to Paul Collingwood for a low catch at third slip. Harmison's reward for his outstanding eight-over spell was to be replaced by Flintoff two overs later, who signalled his intentions early by hitting de Villiers on the grill as he attempted to sway out of the way of a short delivery.

He followed that by tempting Ashwell Prince to push outside off-stump and give Andrew Strauss a catch at first slip while the Lancashire seamer James Anderson surprised Mark Boucher with some extra bounce, who gave a looping catch to Paul Collingwood at point. The left-arm spinner Monty Panesar had Morne Morkel caught off the glove by Ian Bell at short leg. * PA Sport