Steve Finn fires as England close in on memorable South Africa win
Bowler in top form as England push for victory on the fourth day of the first test against South Africa
Steven Finn took three crucial wickets, including two in successive overs, as England pushed for victory on the fourth day of the first test against South Africa at Kingsmead on Tuesday.
Set to make 416 to win, South Africa were 136 for four at the close of play, facing a long struggle to bat out the final day to earn a draw and prevent England from going ahead in the four-match series.
England hopes soared soon after tea when the tall Finn had South African captain Hashim Amla caught behind for 12 before removing the limpet-like Dean Elgar for 40.
Elgar, who carried his bat for 118 not out in the first innings, was caught at second slip by Joe Root. He had been on the field for the entire match up to that point.
AB de Villiers and Faf du Plessis batted through 103 minutes and 23.5 overs to raise hopes that South Africa might pull off another rearguard action to save the game as they have done against Australia, India and Sri Lanka in recent seasons.
But, in what proved to be the last over of the day, Finn struck again, having Du Plessis caught by England captain Alastair Cook at first slip off a ball that kicked viciously to glance off the shoulder of the bat. Finn finished the day with three for 27. Du Plessis made nine off 66 balls.
Speaking about his late evening burst to dismiss Du Plessis, Finn said: “(Bowling coach) Ottis (Gibson) and Broady (Stuart Broad) told me at the drinks break, ‘bowl as quick as you can and hit the deck as hard as you can and see if something might happen’.
“It's been quite hot, sticky conditions for bowlers but I ran in as hard as I could and luckily got a bit of extra bounce.”
Finn said he was confident England could take the remaining six wickets on the final day on Wednesday.
“We’re in a fantastic position to press for that victory. The rewards we got from both a batting and bowling perspective were born through patience and hard work.
“We're going to have to be patient again tomorrow but we back ourselves to get those six wickets.”
De Villiers, who made 37 not out off 83 balls, escaped with his score on 33 when he went down the pitch to off-spinner Moeen Ali and wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow failed to catch a sharply-turning ball to make a stumping.
Elgar and Stiaan van Zyl put on 53 for South Africa’s first wicket before Ben Stokes bowled Van Zyl for 33.
The left-handed Van Zyl played some handsome strokes before he fell in similar fashion to his first innings duck against Stuart Broad, misjudging a ball bowled from around the wicket which hit his off stump.
England were bowled out for 326 in their second innings just under an hour after lunch.
Bairstow hit an aggressive 79 off 76 balls to provide impetus to the England innings as they sought to score quickly to give themselves time to bowl out South Africa.
Bairstow hit nine fours and three sixes before he was last man out, caught at long-off, after he provided a rare example of a batsman scoring freely on a dry, slow pitch.
With fast bowler Dale Steyn missing because of a shoulder strain, off-spinner Dane Piedt bowled 18 overs unchanged from the start of play. He finished with five for 153 in 36 overs, his first five-wicket haul in Tests.
Piedt acknowledged that South Africa faced a tough battle.
“We're really going to knuckle down and take it as long as possible,” he said.