Oz Ashes hopes washed away

England retain the Ashes (Getty Images)
England retain the Ashes (Getty Images)

Manchester - England retained the Ashes after rain meant the third Test against Australia at Old Trafford ended in a draw on Monday.

Only 20.3 overs were possible on the fifth and final day, but that was still long enough for England to collapse to 37 for three, having been set 332 to win after Australia declared on their overnight 172 for seven.

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.

And they had the result they required when the match was abandoned as a draw at 16:39 local time (17:39 SA time).

"It's a great feeling, a strange feeling. It's been a strange day for the lads but we've retained it after three games, played good cricket in the first two, fought hard and had a little bit of a luck today with the weather," England captain Alastair Cook said at the presentation ceremony.

"It's nice to retain the Ashes.

"It's been a really good series. We played well at Lord's (where England won the second Test by 347 runs), Trent Bridge was a nail-biting game (England got home in the first Test there by just 14 runs).

"In this game it was an important toss to win but Australia played well, put us under pressure getting 500 but we responded well with the wicket getting harder. We fought hard."

Asked if the match had ended in an anti-climax, Cook replied: "The weather hasn't been ideal but you can't predict that.

"We've retained the Ashes and now we want to go and win them.

"If you'd said that after three Tests, I'd have snapped your hand off to be in this position."

Australia captain Michael Clarke said his side had paid the price for falling 2-0 behind, with no side having won an Ashes series from that position since a Don Bradman-inspired Australia triumphed 3-2 in 1936/37.

"I don't want to take anything away from England. They deserved to be 2-0 up. That's the chance you take when you are 2-0 down in the UK, there can be a bit of rain about. The guys have worked their backsides off here."

Clarke was named man-of-the-match for his first innings 187 but he said: "It's nice to make runs but the result is more important."

Australia will have a chance to regain the Ashes when the return series starts in Brisbane in November.

But Clarke said this side still had something to play for this campaign.

"It's important we concentrate on the two Tests here. It would be a great achievement if we leave England 2-2 -- our goal is to try to level the series."

Ryan Harris struck twice after rain delayed Monday's start by 30 minutes to dismiss Cook (lbw) and Jonathan Trott (caught behind) before Peter Siddle claimed the prize wicket of Kevin Pietersen, edging to wicketkeeper Brad Haddin.

However, the bad weather for which Manchester venue Old Trafford is infamous, but which had stayed away until Sunday evening, took charge.

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

Now the best Australia can hope for is to share the series 2-2. In the event of a drawn campaign, the team that last won the Ashes retains them and in this series that means England following their 3-1 win in Australia in 2010/11.

One consolation for Australia was that this result ended a run of six successive Test defeats, their worst for 29 years, and meant they avoided equalling their all-time record losing streak of seven set between 1885-88.

The series, which could yet see the first drawn Test campaign between England and Australia since 1972, continues Friday with the fourth Test at Chester-le-Street, the headquarters of north-east county Durham.

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