London: England's hopes of clinching a series-levelling win in the third test were receding on the fourth morning as South Africa extended their lead to 210 runs at lunch on Sunday, with AB de Villiers crucially dropped before he had reached double figures.

The Proteas were 216 for four at Lord's with the ever-reliable Hashim Amla 94 not out, approaching a 16th test century, and de Villiers on 24.

With just five sessions remaining in the game, time is running out for England to dismiss South Africa and leave a manageable target they can attain to draw the series 1-1.

Only one wicket fell 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 eventually lobbed a catch up to James Taylor at short leg off the bowling of Stuart Broad.

South Africa might have been reduced to 177 for five had James Anderson not dropped a straightforward chance from the dangerous de Villiers at midwicket off Graeme Swann's off-spin. Anderson, until recently, fielded at slip to Swann.

It was the second costly miss of the innings after Matt Prior floored a catch down the leg side when Amla was on two the previous evening. Prior later revealed that it was his first drop in two years, standing back.

Batting conditions were perfect under bright sunshine when play resumed, though for the hour before lunch dark clouds hovered overhead, causing the floodlights to be switched on.

The umpires took the players off five minutes before the scheduled lunch interval because of rain.

The second new ball will be due just after the interval, which is likely to be England's last chance of redemption in the series.

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.


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