England v South Africa, 2nd Investec Test, Headingley, 4th day August 5, 2012

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
Live scorecard and ball-by-ball details

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Andrew on August 6, 2012, 23:32 GMT

    @R_U_4_REAL_NICK on (August 06 2012, 11:41 AM GMT) - the beauty of Test cricket is that it can amble along in an almost pointless manner & then can change rapidly in the twinkling of an eye. Refer to the WI v India in India where I think it was the 3rd test, where a draw was the only result "possible" at stumps on the 4th day - in the end, with two balls left on the 5th day, all FOUR possibilities were possible! Refer to the 1st Test Eng v SL, where SL inexplicably imploded, refer to Oz v WIndies, Pup's earlyish declaration & run-chase. All these matches were heading for a draw for most of the match, this game an ended in a tantalising position & is a great Pub debate, what would of happened if there was a 6th day? I'd say the Saffas were slightly ahead, but I think both sides were cavalier with their wickets after Lunch. Bring on Lord's.

  • Andrew on August 6, 2012, 23:26 GMT

    @JG2704 - whilst I think Oz, Saffas & Eng are 3 best teams in the world atm, they all have their deficiencies & the top 6 are probably closer than at anytime in the last 30 yrs. I said back during the Oz v India series that whilst Pup's Ozzys are not as good as say Waugh/Taylor/Ponting teams, his team is more watchable because you don't really know what to expect. I think that is a product of any side can win a series against anyone atm as the spread of skills is fairly even & it comes down to better preparation, better capitalising on chances & more confidence. We have the Saffas currently leading 1nil against your mob, yet they lost a test to SL on home soil, drew pakistan in UAE (England whitewashed yet had chances to win the series), & drew 1all against a side (Oz), who they bowled out for 47, Oz have had a fairly good run (post Ashes), but lost a test to NZ & were not convincing against WI. SL knocked off Pakistan but only drew England (refer to Pak in UAE), unpredictable times!

  • John on August 6, 2012, 14:54 GMT

    @Muhtasim13 on (August 06 2012, 13:12 PM GMT) It's more baffling that they continually get published

  • John on August 6, 2012, 14:52 GMT

    @Steve Gregory on (August 06 2012, 11:45 AM GMT) Officially Swann was left out but I reckon he was hampered by injury. Monty has one bad test and it seems is now surplus to requirements. Maybe he should say he's a batsman and get an extended run?

  • Muhtasim on August 6, 2012, 13:12 GMT

    given the fact that this article is a report on the ongoing Eng-SA test match, it baffles me that there are so many comments regarding India.

  • Jasper on August 6, 2012, 13:07 GMT

    Am I the only one who thinks that, at best, these two bowling attacks, although probably being the best around at the moment, they are pretty ordinary compared to quite of few of the attacks from the '90s and early 2000? No bowler comes close to averaging around the 90 mph mark. Donald, Akthar, Younis, Lee could manage the odd effort ball just shy of the 100 mph mark. The old shock bowlers. What happened to them? Supreme bowling attacks like the Aussies' Gillespie, McGrath, Lee, Warne, the Pakistani Younis, Ahktar, Akram and Mushtaq and the Windies' Ambrose, Walsh and Bishop, have all but disappeared. Also, has the reverse swinging yorker become a banned ball? You just don't see that anymore. Both England and SA could do with the odd toe breaker. We often hear the pitches being blamed for the high batting averages today, but honestly, what have become of the pace and skill of yesteryear?

  • John on August 6, 2012, 13:02 GMT

    @jimmy2s on (August 06 2012, 10:40 AM GMT) You are half right in that there isn't a huge gulf between these sides. The 1st test was a thrashing for England but this one has been pretty level and as I put in my previous comms no one can realistically say the rain saved either side. I was saying earlier in the year that there is little to chose between Eng,SA and Australia and while England have played some terrible stuff since becoming number 1 I still maintain that. And even saying that , all 3 teams are beatable by any of the top 6. England have the worst record (of the 3) by far since becoming number 1 but in 2010/11 had the best record of the 3. There might be alot of hype and hoopla since becoming number 1 but it was on field performances which got us there.

  • Dummy4 on August 6, 2012, 11:45 GMT

    Can someone answer me this why is G Swan not playing?is he injured?because it looks like the balance is out in the English camp

  • Nicholas on August 6, 2012, 11:41 GMT

    Well, nothing happening here on the final day... Smith and Rudolph just steadily increasing their career batting averages. They should make a new law that allows players to just stop playing if a result isn't likely, and play a funny ODI/T20 instead with mixed teams.

  • veeru on August 6, 2012, 11:40 GMT

    Hi, with current status - IF SA gets another 200 runs in 50 overs then they can target to England to pressure back on england ... still we can expect some dramatic results from this final day...

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