Draw looms at soggy Headingley
Matt Prior compiled a fine half-century, but England failed to capitalise on their overnight position before heavy rain brought day four of the second Investec Test against South Africa at Headingley Carnegie to a premature end.
After being taken apart by the destructive Kevin Pietersen yesterday, South Africa’s bowlers hit back immediately as Morne Morkel trapped the right-hander in front for 149 with the second ball of the day.
The impressive Prior provided some resistance with 68 from 89 deliveries, but Imran Tahir helped dismiss the hosts for 425 with a trio of wickets in 13 balls.
Graeme Smith and Jacques Rudolph - promoted to the top of the order due to the absence of the injured Alviro Petersen – safely negotiated 17 overs in between showers.
Smith had 17 to his name, while Rudolph was unbeaten on 21 as the Proteas, lacking the services of all-rounder Jacques Kallis due to back spasms, opened up a lead of 33 by reaching 39 without loss when play was abandoned.
With the weather forecast grim for the final day tomorrow, a draw is now looking the most likely result.
England’s aspirations of building a sizable first-innings lead were dashed this morning as Pietersen failed to replicate yesterday’s fireworks; he was rapped on the pads plumb in front by a revitalised Morkel.
Prior again played a vital knock with a number of fluent strokes all round the wicket off Morkel and Dale Steyn.
The right-hander struck a quartet of fours in a 13-ball spell that saw him score 23 runs before completing his half-century off 66 deliveries.
Tim Bresnan provided able support in a seventh-wicket stand of 45 until he edged Vernon Philander to Smith at slip.
That proved to be England’s only fruitful partnership as Tahir wrapped up the tail for the loss of 29 runs, leaving Andrew Strauss’ side with just a six-run lead.
Stuart Broad tamely chipped to midwicket and James Anderson was bowled, either side of Prior - on the sweep - skying a catch to Steyn at deep backward-square.
5:20pm – PLAY ABANDONED FOR THE DAY! SA 39/0; Smith 17, Rudolph 21– I’m afraid the wet weather has done too much damage to the outfield, leaving a number of puddles, which prompted the umpires to end the day’s play prematurely. That represents a huge blow to England’s chances of levelling the three-match series.
5pm- No sign of the weather clearing anytime soon. This could well be it for the day and, with the forecast not looking great for tomorrow, a draw is likely at this moment in time.
4:20pm - The lightning is more frequent and the rain is coming down harder. Looking bleak!
3:55pm - Confusion here as Rod Tucker waves on the drinks, only for the ground staff to start bringing on the covers! They were right, though, as the rain has now arrived! Another delay expected!
3:46pm - An lbw appeal from Finn is waved away by the umpire, with the ball pitching way outside off stump. Yorkshire's very own Bresnan is into the attack and the leg side is packed with fielders for Smith.
3:34pm: Broad is unhappy as a Rudolph edge races past Tim Bresnan in the gully. Here comes Finn!
3:25pm - Rudolph is showing patience, leaving the ball at every opportunity. It could well be time for Steven Finn.
3:10pm - James Anderson and Broad are applying the pressure here and another edge drops short of the cordon. Dark clouds are moving in!
3pm - James Taylor is called into action at point, diving to stop a Jacques Rudolph cut off Stuart Broad, who sees the left-hander edge over the slips next ball.
2:45pm - Play will restart in 10 minutes, with 59.3 overs to be bowled before the close at 7pm.
2:12pm - I'm pleased to report the sun is out and the puddles have evaporated. The ground is looking good, but it will need a little bit more time to dry out. There will be an inspection at 2:35pm. More showers are expected this afternoon.
1:32pm - The heavens have officially opened! The rain is set in and is coming down fast. The puddles on the outfield suggest this will be a lengthy delay.
12:57pm - RAIN STOPS PLAY - LUNCH - SA 5/0; Rudolph 3, Smith 1 - Lightning followed by rain in Leeds sees the players depart the field and heralds lunch.
12:54pm - REVIEW - Smith is hit on the pad by Anderson and, after umpire Rod Tucker is unmoved, a review shows the ball is going over the top. The bowler, getting the ball to swing, then beats the left-hander's outside edge.
12:49pm - Jacques Rudolph replaces Petersen and accompanies Smith at the top of the order. Rain looks to be moving in. The former drives Anderson down the ground for three.
12:42pm - It will be interesting to see who opens for South Africa, who have injury concerns over both Smith and Alviro Petersen. Number four is also a worry as Jacques Kallis is struggling with back spasms.
12:40pm - WICKET! Anderson b Tahir 8; Eng 427 all out - Anderson is starting to play his shots, reverse sweeping Tahir to the boundary. However, he attempts to sweep again and is bowled next ball.
12:31pm - WICKET! Prior c Steyn b Tahir 68; Eng 420/9 - Prior excellent innings comes to an end as he skies a sweep shot off Tahir straight down Steyn's throat.
12:28pm - Prior exposes James Anderson with a single off the first ball of Steyn's over. The left-hander plays and misses before guiding a four through the slips to take England into the lead.
12:22pm - REVIEW - Prior, reverse sweeping, is hit on the pad by Tahir, who is unsuccessful with a review.
12:13pm - WICKET! Broad c du Plessis b Tahir 1; Eng 407/8 - I spoke too soon! Broad lofts Tahir to a diving Francois du Plessis at midwicket. England are still 12 runs behind.
12:08pm - Prior steers the ball down towards third man to take England past 400. Tahir is not threatening at all, Prior sweeping him fine for four.
11:59am - WICKET! Bresnan c Smith b Philander 9; SA 396/7 - Bresnan provides Smith with another catch in the cordon off Vernon Philander and, with England still trailing by 23, Stuart Broad needs to stick around and help Prior.
11:54am - Tickets are available for tomorrow's final day and can be purchased after tea. They are priced at £20 for adults, £10 for seniors and students and £5 for Under-16s.
11:46am - FIFTY! Prior (66b 7x4 0x6) - Prior shows his class again, moving to a half-century from 66 balls. Bresnan is finding it difficult to score runs, but is playing a fine supporting role to Prior, who is scoring all round the wicket.
11:31am - England are running hard as they reduce the deficit to 36. Prior is four short of another Test half-century. Imran Tahir comes into the attack.
11:20am - Graeme Smith has had his knee strapped and looks to be moving fine, which is good news for South Africa. Prior, a player who thrives off these type of situations, cuts Morkel for four and then takes successive boundaries in the paceman's next over. Prior has scored a quartet of fours in 13 balls this morning.
11:09am - Tim Bresnan, who got warm applause from his home crowd as he strode out to the middle, gets off the mark with a flick to the leg side, and Matt Prior drives Dale Steyn through the covers for the first boundary of the day.
11:01am - WICKET! Pietersen lbw Morkel 149; Eng 351/5 - South Africa start superbly as Morkel traps Pietersen plumb in front with the second ball of the day.
10:58am - Pietersen and Prior follow South Africa out to the middle. An intriguing session beckons. Here comes Morne Morkel!
10:55am - There will be 98 overs bowled today, with the close of play scheduled at 6:30pm.
10:50am - Pietersen has company from Matt Prior, who quietly moved to 20 not out off 30 balls following debutant James Taylor’s dismissal for 34. If Pietersen and Prior get in their groove this morning, England could be ahead by lunch.
10:45am - The tourists are struggling with injuries for the second successive day. Jacques Kallis joins Alviro Petersen, who has a hamstring strain, on the sidelines with a back problem, but skipper Graeme Smith has been passed fit despite leaving the field last night with an apparent knee injury. South Africa may be forced into reshuffling their batting line-up when they have their second dig.
10:38am - Kevin Pietersen was the star of the show for the hosts, striking a brutal unbeaten 149 to give his side a chance of levelling the three-match series. The Proteas bowling attack were blown away yesterday, but they will be boosted by the cloud cover sweeping in as they look for a response.
10:30am - Welcome back to Headingley Carnegie, where England will be attempting to secure a first-innings lead after closing day three on 351 for five in reply to South Africa’s 419 all out.