Cow Corner

Is the focus on Lord’s finale already?

Cow Corner

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England captain Andrew Strauss and team director Andy Flower are true professionals, and they will insist publicly that a result is still possible in the second Test at Headingley.

But they would be forgiven for starting to turn their focus to the final game of the series at Lord's, which starts on 16 August.

South Africa closed the day on 39 without loss, a lead of 33 after England were dismissed for 425. Captain Graeme Smith is on 17 not out, with his opening partner Jacques Rudolph unbeaten on 21.

The rain cloud that belched its contents over Headingley midway through the afternoon has probably ended any hope of a positive result. In the rain break, Sky Sports showed the 1998 game between the sides at Headingley, which England won thanks to six contentious decisions.

It would probably need umpiring of Javed Akhtar proportions to force a result on Monday's fifth day.

Headingley is historically a ground where a match can be won or lost in a session but you can expect the South African openers to play out the first hour, then grind down the England attack for the rest of the day.

And grind it certainly will be. The Olympics have taken all the headlines this weekend, and any coverage of cricket has rightly focused on Pietersen's incredible 149 on Saturday.

But KP aside, this has actually been quite a dull Test match. Alviro Petersen's innings was not exactly box office, and only Matt Prior's impish innings of 68 in 89 balls was actually worth flicking over from the 24 channels of London 2012 action.

For some passages of play the world record attempt by the Western Terrace for the longest beer snake was more entertaining than watching Smith and Rudolph leave the ball outside off stump.

The England and South Africa bowling attacks are the top two in Test cricket, but none of the marquee fast bowlers have quite clicked. Dale Steyn hasn't quite bowled at top pace and Morne Morkel has been too erratic. For England, James Anderson and Stuart Broad have been accurate without ever looking as if they would rip through the South Africa middle order.

If there is no early breakthrough on Monday morning, it will be a day of going through the motions.

England need a result at Lord's in order to retain their ranking as the number one ranked Test nation, and Strauss will be keen not to overbowl his attack on Monday in a fruitless cause.

But there is no Graeme Swann to whirl through the overs at one end, so you can expect to see Jonathan Trott (3 wickets at 101.66) and Kevin Pietersen (5 wickets at 153.2) getting the opportunity to add to their Test wickets tally.


STAT OF THE DAY: South Africa have conceded 131 runs in extras in this series.

TWEET OF THE DAY: "There's a cloud approaching Headingley that I'm pretty sure had a walk-on part in The Perfect Storm." Cricinfo's George Dobell turns weatherman.

TALKING POINT OF THE DAY: We had a review that was not overturned. Umpires Steve Davis and Rod Tucker have not had the best of matches, but Tucker was spot on today. His ruling that an Imran Tahir delivery to Matt Prior had pitched outside leg stump was proven correct and third umpire Asad Rauf on the walkie-talkie was heard to say "Well done Rod."

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