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Page last updated at 16:02 GMT, Saturday, 9 August 2008 17:02 UK

Dismal weather frustrates England

Fourth Test, The Oval, day three (close):
South Africa 194 & 110-2 v England 316

By Jamie Lillywhite

Kevin Pietersen
Pietersen was thwarted by both the weather and the batsmen on day three

Kevin Pietersen's quest for victory in his first Test as England skipper was dented by bad weather at The Oval, as only 17 overs were bowled on day three.

South Africa, resuming 85 behind at 37-1, had reduced the deficit to 12 in reaching 110-2 but rain forced an early lunch and no further play was possible.

The start was delayed by half an hour, and after a quiet opening Stuart Broad removed Neil McKenzie's middle stump.

Hashim Amla hit an assured unbeaten 71, with 14 fours in his ninth Test fifty.

There is plenty of time remaining for one team to force a result, however, and South Africa coach Mickey Arthur is looking for his team to get as near as possible to 350.

He said: "We feel we can defend 220, and if we can get that high there will be a lot of pressure on the England top five."

His team have already sewn up the series, but a 3-0 result would be much sweeter than a 2-1 verdict.

Arthur added: "From a South African point of view we certainly don't want to lose any Test matches. We would be really gutted to lose the last Test match here.


"As long as we remember the things that have got us to this point we will be fine going forward, and we will keep improving.

"The guys are going to be fighting to win this one because we still have the opportunity to do so.

Pietersen has been largely in control of proceedings since the opening afternoon, but even he could not prevent the elements taking over on Saturday, and it was a sombre scene in south London, particularly unfortunate for a large crowd.

The England captain might have expected more from his two premier bowlers, Steve Harmison and James Anderson, who proved such a constant threat to the tourists in the first innings.

But though the overcast conditions and imminent threat of rain would have favoured the bowlers rather than the batsmen, the England duo could not find the right lines.

McKenzie was quick to seize on any width, and when Harmison dropped short as well he was dismissively despatched to the boundary with the opener's customary economy of movement.

Stuart Broad bowls Neil McKenzie
Broad was greatly improved and got his reward with this dramatic dismissal

There was one rather curious stroke from McKenzie that flew off the top edge towards fine-leg, but Monty Panesar was not overly alert and did not get near to the ball.

Panesar did not endear himself to Anderson either when his cumbersome attempt to stop an on-drive resembled an old redwood being felled on the west coast of America.

Anderson produced one sharp inswinger, but the ball began on leg-stump and headed several feet wider, leaving under-fire wicketkeeper Tim Ambrose with no chance behind the stumps.

Ironically it was Broad, who had been the one bowler to struggle with his accuracy in the first innings, who made the breakthrough and Pietersen can be credited for another successful bowling change.

Gone were the short and wide deliveries, and in a constantly probing first over Broad ousted Mckenzie when the stoic opener prodded forward, and the ball flew off the inside edge and into the timber.

Amla, who scored only 36 runs in four innings when he last faced England, in South Africa in 2004-05, looked set for his second century of this series after another composed innings.

There was the odd streaky edge, but far more in the way of authoritative cuts and drives on both sides of the wicket, and all made in the same unflappable manner.

He had reached 58 when Andrew Flintoff nipped one back sharply off the seam to catch the edge as Amla tried to force off the back foot.

A wrongfooted Ambrose did extremely well to get a glove to the ball as it seared down the leg-side, but such is the scrutiny surrounding the keeper that a section of the crowd subjected him to a derisory ironic cheer on his next take.

That aside, Amla's most alarming moment was when Ambrose failed to collect Ian Bell's throw from the outfield and it bounced into his back.

At 1252 BST the rain took the players off the field and after a brief consultation with the captains, play was abandoned for the day shortly before 1700.

Rain-soaked spectators making their way home, apart from those in the England and Wales Cricket Board financial division, can console themselves with the thought that a 50% refund will be coming their way as less than 25 overs were bowled.

see also
England v South Africa photos
09 Aug 08 |  England
Pietersen ton puts England ahead
08 Aug 08 |  England
New era begins well for England
07 Aug 08 |  England
South Africa in England in 2008
02 Aug 08 |  Cricket

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