Headingley, day four: South Africa 39-0

England came into today with a chance to get a very big lead and put South Africa under real pressure on the last day. That possibility ended two balls into the day when Kevin Pietersen was trapped lbw. It was South Africa’s morning even after that as England were bowled out just before lunch for a lead of only six. Whilst it is not too bad to lose five mostly tail end wickets in one session and whilst still getting any sort of first innings lead after the loss of Pietersen was still pretty good, England could have done better. Matt Prior batted very well in the morning to keep South Africa from really getting on the front foot whilst Bresnan doggedly held up an end. Bresnan ultimately only added nine, however, and his departure prompted a rush of wickets. Broad was next to go and he can certainly be disappointed. He is a decent batsman with a Test hundred to his name, but he has not shown that of late and today he gifted his wicket to the leg spinner Tahir. Tahir does occasionally bowl a good ball, but this was not at all one of them and both Prior and Jimmy quickly gifted their wickets in similar style to leave him with a deceptive three-fer.

England’s lead of six was enough to leave the match finely poised though and bowling well to skittle South Africa could have put them in a winning position. But the rains came, first after only two overs of South Africa’s innings (in which Smith had survived a big lbw shout and Rudolph looked very scratchy) and then again before tea and meant that there was very little play today. Strictly speaking the statement about England being able to win by bowling South Africa out quickly and cheaply still applies, but it would now have to happen amazingly fast for England to still chase down the runs. I don’t see any other result than a draw tomorrow.

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