Updated: 05/08/2012 20:35 | By pa.press.net

Rain hits England victory hopes



Matt Prior's impressive half-century came before rain frustrated England at Headingley

Matt Prior's impressive half-century came before rain frustrated England at Headingley

Hopes of an improbable series-levelling England victory were ever more remote after South African resistance and bad weather halted home progress at Headingley.

England could turn their 351 for five into only 425 all out - despite the best efforts of Matt Prior (68) - and then there was time between the storms for only 17 fruitless overs against openers Graeme Smith and Jacques Rudolph on day four of the second Investec Test.

Twice in less than five hours, downpours deposited lakes on the outfield, and South Africa closed on the safety of 39 for none, with a lead of 33. Even the most optimistic of England supporters must know something extraordinary will be required on Monday for their team to have any chance of series victory when they head to Lord's next week for the final Test.

The window of opportunity was already narrow at the start of play for England to properly consolidate Saturday's Kevin Pietersen-inspired fightback, with bat and then ball. Those chances receded almost immediately when they lost their centurion to just the second ball of the day, without addition to his overnight 149.

Pietersen pushed forward in defence but missed and was lbw to Morne Morkel - revenge for the fast bowler after the mauling he took from England's number four the previous evening

Prior continued the counter-attack nonetheless with a Pietersen-style rush of boundaries, four among 23 runs off 13 deliveries. But Tim Bresnan and Stuart Broad could add only 10 between them, respectively caught at slip off a good ball that held its line from Vernon Philander and mispulling Imran Tahir to be well held by substitute fielder Faf du Plessis.

Prior was still able to pass an important 66-ball half-century, which ensured Pietersen's very good work was not entirely squandered. James Anderson helped the wicketkeeper poke England's noses in front, before Prior holed out sweeping at Tahir (three for 92). Then Anderson missed an attempted slog-sweep in the same over from the leg-spinner.

England's prospects of putting South Africa's second innings under pressure were enhanced by injury niggles for key batsmen. They meant opener Alviro Petersen (hamstring strain) and all-rounder Jacques Kallis (back spasm) could not bat in their preferred positions, having not taken the field in the morning.

Smith, who hurt himself retrieving a three last night, was fit to bat - but with strapping on his sore left knee. Rudolph was the captain's makeshift opening partner, and the left-handed pair were largely untroubled if subdued to withstand all that England's four-man pace attack could muster against them.

A surface which began to offer variable bounce on Saturday did no such thing for Anderson, Broad, Bresnan and Steven Finn. They passed the bat regularly, but when the edge was found - most often Rudolph's - the ball invariably went to ground long before it reached the slip cordon.

0Comments
10 reasons to make MSN UK your homepage (© Microsoft)

latest cricket news

  • Gary Kirsten believes more coaches will opt for the IPL over Test cricket

    Gary Kirsten believes that the all-year demands of international coaching may lead many to look for employment in tournaments such as the Indian Premier League, rather than pursue Test cricket jobs.

  • Alastair Cook believes county players have an excellent chance to advance their claims for a Test spot

    England captain Alastair Cook has admitted the team's recent struggles mean there are "quite a few places up for grabs".

  • Sam Robson's century enhanced his England chances

    England hopeful Sam Robson has targeted more big scores for Middlesex to strengthen his claim to international selection this summer.

  • Ed Joyce's Sussex are the early leaders in LV= County Championship Division One

    Captain Ed Joyce's second century of the match carried Sussex to victory number two, over Warwickshire at Edgbaston, and into an early lead in the new LV= County Championship Division One season.

  • Andrew Flintoff may be pleasing the crowds again this summer, at St Annes

    Andrew Flintoff may be about to return to his roots this summer, by turning out for his old club side St Annes.

  • Australia's Chris Rogers has hinted he could retire next year

    Australia opener Chris Rogers has suggested that "in an ideal world" he would retire after next year's Ashes series in England.

  • James Anderson thinks the onus is on the players to turn England's fortunes around this summer

    James Anderson believes this winter's Ashes flops must take the responsibility of leading England into their new era.

  • Northants have lost the services of Rory Kleinveldt

    Northamptonshire's hopes of signing South African Rory Kleinveldt have been scuppered by injury.

  • Jonny Bairstow broke a finger in the friendly with Northamptonshire

    Yorkshire and England wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow has been ruled out for up to six weeks after breaking a finger.

  • Giles Clarke may be welcoming Ireland to Lord's

    An inaugural England-Ireland Test match at Lord's has become a foreseeable reality after the International Cricket Council specified its pathway to the top table for associate members.

  • South Africa and Australia will return to tour Zimbabwe

    South Africa will play Test cricket in Zimbabwe for the first time in 13 years in August, following the release of a ground-breaking month-long tour.

  • Captain Ed Joyce hit back-to-back centuries as Sussex broke their Edgbaston hoodoo

    Captain Ed Joyce duly saw Sussex through to their first county championship victory over Warwickshire at Edgbaston in more than 30 years.

  • Latest cricket news

    Graham Napier led the attack as Essex claimed a 53-run victory over Derbyshire on the final day of the LV= County Championship Division Two match at Chelmsford.

  • Another century from captain Ed Joyce put Sussex within sight of victory

    Captain Ed Joyce hit his second hundred of the match to put Sussex on the brink of victory number two, over Warwickshire at Edgbaston, at the start of their LV= County Championship Division One campaign.

  • England's Joe Root has been named as one of Wisden's five Cricketers of the Year

    Joe Root is one of Wisden's Five Cricketers of the Year, alongside England women's captain Charlotte Edwards.