South Africa resist before heavy rain
South Africa 419 and 39 for 0 (Rudolph 21*, Smith 17*) lead England 425 (Pietersen 149, Prior 68) by 33 runs
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The favourite statistic at Headingley as the second Test endured a soggy fourth day was that if Yorkshire was a country - and to many people up here it is - it would be lying seventh in the Olympics medal table. The phrase "a strong Yorkshire is a strong England" used to be reserved exclusively for cricket, but the thought that it now had wider currency cheered up the cognoscenti as the rain tippled down.
A Test that has been played out in the shadow of the Olympics has already had to contend with disruption by rain to the extent that it could become that rare thing: a Headingley draw. Leeds has witnessed a positive results in its last 12 Tests, but the 13th will have to provide quite a final day to extend the trend when South Africa begin with a lead of 33 and all ten second-innings wickets remaining.
An exhilarating century from Kevin Pietersen apart, this has been at best a worthy Test - most admirable in the colossal show of dedication by Alviro Petersen whose own hundred came with a price, a grade one hamstring strain which will take a week to heal and which will leave him walking his runs if he is forced to bat.
South Africa are under physical strain. Smith, their redoubtable captain, did field and bat on the fourth day, but with a knee heavily strapped after injuring himself on Saturday evening when he slid to prevent a boundary. Most disturbing of all for South Africa, Jacques Kallis had developed lower back spasms overnight that ruled him out of bowling or fielding for the rest of England's innings. It might even rule him out of the rest of the series.
South Africa's injuries are bringing England hope. Given a dry day, they will imagine they still might dismiss a disrupted South Africa batting order for 150 within 50 overs if Headingley delivers one of its most bowler-friendly mornings. The situation is exacerbated by the ICC's controversial change in playing regulations last year that will prevent any of the three injured players batting with a runner.
England had gained a slender lead of six after Matt Prior hit a vigorous 68, a positive innings from a player who once again emphasised his qualities as a selfless team man, playing the situation never influenced by individual considerations, his contributions often underplayed.
But but they could not separate Graeme Smith and Jacques Rudolph before the clouds rolled back for the final time and will have been disappointed with the lack of reward in the 17 overs possible on an thundery afternoon that looked blessed for bowling. The pitch remains sound and slow - there is nothing for short - and any mischief will have to come in the air.
In their anxiety to make good use of a tiny bowling window before lunch, England conceded an umpiring review when Rod Tucker's refusal of an optimistic James Anderson lbw appeal against Smith was upheld.
Before the over could be completed, a flash of lightning sent the players scurrying for the pavilion. Rain began to fall seconds later, forcing lunch to be taken a few minutes early and restricting South Africa's time at the crease to 2.3 overs. The new ball was swinging and South Africa were grateful to reach lunch unscathed in the hope of more settled weather ahead.
After the interval there was a more sustained period of cricket and England passed - or found - the edge on a number of occasions without reward. Rudolph, opening in place of the injured Petersen, edged over the slips when a ball took the shoulder of the bat and also edged short of gully. To have a realistic chance of forcing a result, England needed early wickets but that has not looked likely from the attack at any stage in this series.
Earlier, Kevin Pietersen's outstanding Test century turned out to be only a Saturday spectacular. He fell to the second ball of the morning, lbw to Morne Morkel. After a quick glance at his batting partner, Prior, he strolled off with a broad smile and no thoughts of turning to DRS.
The mood initially was very much that of the morning after the night before. The packed Headingley crowds of the first three days had not entirely been repeated in a patchy fourth-day attendance and Pietersen, advancing slightly to work Morkel into the leg side, found that another adrenalin rush was beyond him.
England, 1-0 down in the series, needed the match to progress quickly, a situation that eminently suited Prior, who is a counter-attacking cricketer by nature. He despatched the quicks crisply through the off side, while the Yorkshireman, Tim Bresnan, resisted pawkily alongside him before he edged Vernon Philander to slip.
It needed Imran Tahir to quell Prior by bowling his legspin around the wicket into the rough outside leg stump. Tahir also made inroads for South Africa with three wickets. Stuart Broad miscued a pull as he was defeated by a quicker delivery, leaving the substitute Faf du Plessis to take a slick catch running backwards at mid on and leaving Broad with only one Test half-century this calendar year.
Prior was ninth out when he top-edged a sweep to long leg and Anderson, who steered Dale Steyn wide of the slips to put England into the lead, was then bowled by Tahir attempting a slog-sweep.
David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo