South Africa Presses for Victory to Take Cricket’s No. 1 Ranking

South Africa can take Test cricket’s No. 1 ranking from England today by sealing a series victory on the last day of their best-of-three contest.

Needing 346 to win the match, draw the series and stay top of the International Cricket Council’s elite rankings, England will resume at 16-2 at Lord’s in London after losing Alastair Cook and Andrew Strauss leg-before-wicket to Vernon Philander.

The South Africans need to avoid defeat on the final day to end England’s yearlong stay in the No. 1 spot and go back atop the rankings for the first time since November 2009. Play is scheduled to resume at 11 a.m. local time.

“Victory is the first thing on our minds,” Hashim Amla, who scored 121 to help South Africa post 351 in its second innings yesterday, said in a news conference. “We’re going for the win. We are not the ones that have to make the play so that gives us a lot of opportunities to get wickets.”

Only three teams have successfully chased more than 200 in the fourth innings to win a Test match at Lord’s. The touring team is the 1-2 favorite to win with England the 16-1 outsider, according to U.K. bookmaker William Hill Plc, which rates the draw a 7-4 chance.

“England will need a miracle to hang on to the number one ranking,” said William Hill spokesman Rupert Adams.

South Africa, which won the opener by an innings before a the second Test was drawn, was all out after tea yesterday.

Amla, who was dropped on a difficult chance by Matt Prior when on two, completed his second century of the series before AB de Villiers (43), Philander (35) and JP Duminy, 26 not out, helped lift the total above 350. England fast bowler Steven Finn took 4-74 to give him eight wickets for the match.

Openers Out

Philander then trapped both England openers lbw before the close of play, leaving Jonathan Trott on 6, Ian Bell on 4 and the home team needing another 330 runs to win. South Africa requires eight wickets to seal its second straight Test series victory in England.

“The two guys that are in have performed fantastically well for England for a long time,” Finn told reporters. “We hope they can build a big, long partnership. It’s up to the batsmen to really knuckle down and get us into a position where we can win the game.”

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