Rain interrupts Aussie charge

Michael Clarke and Shane Watson (Getty Images)
Michael Clarke and Shane Watson (Getty Images)

Manchester - Rain came to England's rescue as the hosts moved closer to securing a draw in the third Test against Australia at Old Trafford on Monday that would see them retain the Ashes.

Only three balls were possible in the second session of the fifth and final day, with England 37 for three at tea following a top-order collapse that saw captain Alastair Cook, Jonathan Trott and Kevin Pietersen all dismissed after Australia captain Michael Clarke had declared on his side's overnight 172 for seven.

England were 295 runs shy of their victory target of 332, with Joe Root, dropped on four, 13 not out and Ian Bell four not out.

But England, 2-0 up in the five-match series after wins by 14 runs and 347 runs at Trent Bridge and Lord's respectively, only had to draw this match to be sure of retaining the Ashes.

A draw would mean the best Australia could hope for was to draw the series 2-2, which would be enough for England to retain the Ashes, following their 3-1 win in Australia in 2010/11.

Clarke had been angry when the umpires took the players off the field for bad light on Sunday.

It seemed the weather was against Australia once more when rain delayed Monday's scheduled start by 30 minutes in a match the tourists had to win to stand any chance of regaining the Ashes.

Ryan Harris, though, brought one back late into left-hander Cook's front pad to have him lbw for nought, with England yet to score.

Cook reviewed Tony Hill's decision but there was nothing to suggest he got an inside edge and, with tracking technology indicating the ball had pitched in line, the New Zealand umpire's decision was upheld.

Trott survived a leg before appeal from Harris when on nine, a decision the Australians reviewed only to be defeated by a marginal 'umpire's call' verdict after replays showed the ball taking the outside part of leg stump.

But Trott was out for 11 when he carelessly glanced Harris and was caught down the legside by wicketkeeper Brad Haddin..

Australia nearly had a third wicket when Root, who'd taken 26 balls to get off the mark, edged Peter Siddle's sixth ball only for the normally reliable Clarke to drop the second slip chance.

But Siddle had the huge compensation of having Pietersen, who made 113 in the first innings, caught behind for just eight as he pushed forward.

Pietersen challenged the decision and while the audio part of the Decision Review System indicated a noise, there was no mark on the Hot Spot thermal imaging device.

However, Sri Lankan third umpire Kumar Dharmasena, in the latest contentious DRS judgment this series, decided there was insufficient evidence to overturn Hill's original verdict and England were 27 for three.

Australia, beaten in their last six Tests and trying to avoid equalling their all-time record losing streak of seven set between 1885-88, now had a great chance of forcing victory only for the elements to conspire against them.

After rain delayed the start of the second session, Siddle struck Bell a painful blow on the thumb with the third ball after lunch. But as Bell received on-field treatment, more rain fell and play was suspended.

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England 219
Pakistan 326 & 137/8 (44 ov)
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England 219
Pakistan 326 & 137/8 (44 ov)
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