England rank victory highest - Finn
England’s world number-one status is on the line tomorrow, but the team will not be worrying about that as they aim to chase 346 to beat South Africa and share the Investec Series.
So says Steven Finn, whose second four-wicket haul in the game earned him the right to face the media again - as he did on Thursday.
Finn’s three-wicket burst in 29 balls this afternoon, including centurion Hashim Amla, was crucial in dismissing the Proteas for 351 midway through the evening session on day four at Lord’s.
Although Vernon Philander then trapped opening batsmen Alastair Cook and Andrew Strauss in front, Finn is in no doubt England can make the remaining 330 they require for victory.
"The number-one status means a lot to us. But it's not what we're playing for tomorrow. We're playing to level the series,” he said. "We want to win tomorrow, and believe we can win tomorrow."
Finn was part of England’s rise to the top of the International Cricket Council rankings, which they achieved almost exactly a year ago by whitewashing India.
While many observers believe victory is beyond them tomorrow, Finn and his colleagues know there is all to play for.
"As a team collectively over the last number of years, we've enjoyed breaking records and defying people's beliefs against us,” he added.
"So tomorrow, when we get here, we've got a 15-over old ball to bat against - which isn't going to do as much as a new ball obviously.
"We've got a great opportunity to assert ourselves on the South Africans early - and we really do believe in the dressing room that we can win this game tomorrow.”
Jonathan Trott and Ian Bell, who repelled South Africa’s pace trio this evening, will resume on six and four respectively.
They and those to follow can be inspired by the alliances that helped England overtake the tourists’ first-innings total.
"It's about building partnerships and, if we get later in the game what can be a tired bowling attack, we know that the older ball does a lot less than the new ball,” he said.
"The two guys that are in have performed fantastically well for England for a long time. We hope they can build a big, long partnership.
"We have that belief in the dressing room. It's up to the batsmen to really knuckle down and get us into a position where we can win the game.”
Finn, whose home county ground is Lord’s, also took confidence from the good condition the pitch is in. He expects it to remain that way tomorrow when more sun is forecast.
"I think it's a very good pitch. I think Morkel got one bit of uneven bounce this evening to Belly,” he added.
"But when the ball went a bit softer, there wasn't any uneven bounce whatsoever.
"When the ball is old and the sun is out, the wicket is a very good one for batting on - and people can make themselves difficult to get out.”
Given the pitch is still good for batting, the 23-year-old paceman was pleased with his haul.
"It's nice to get eight wickets in the game against them, but it means nothing if we don't win tomorrow,” he said.
"South Africa have obviously got some exceptional players, and have played very well.
"You can be patient (bowling) at these guys. They're very respectful; they're not bullies; they'll respect your good balls and put away your bad ones.
"I thought we bowled well today. They never got away from us at any stage, were never really free-flowing or free-scoring ... I think that's testament to the way we bowled.”
Finn’s first wicket today was Amla, whom he bowled for the second time in the game - for 121.
Amla’s 205-ball knock underpinned South Africa’s innings which, in unison with Philander’s two wickets, has given them a good chance of usurping England tomorrow when a draw or tie would suffice for the tourists.
“Of course we are thinking of the win,” he admitted.
“Fortunately we managed to get two big wickets in the evening here that’s put us in a really good position. But we do understand it’s going to take a lot of hard work.
“It’s still a decent wicket to bat on. It’s going to take a bit of hard work but, if we show the intensity that we showed this evening, then we can make it quite difficult (for England).”
Amla reserved praise for Philander, who doubled his two economical first-innings wickets and made 96 runs in the match.
“He may not have picked up many wickets on this tour yet, but I think the way he’s contributed with the bat does a lot for his confidence and he’s come to the party in big moments for us,” Amla added.