Australia Build Lead Before Rain Arrives

Michael Clarke (right) was less than happy as bad light ended play early - but the rain arrived soon after
©REUTERS / Action Images

Australia 527-7 dec. (Clarke 187) & 172-7 v
England 368 (Pietersen 113)
Third Test, Old Trafford, day four

The rain almost stayed away and Old Trafford was treated to another dramatic - and controversial - day of Test cricket before bad light brought about a premature end with Australia 331 runs ahead of England on day four of the third Ashes Test.

Positive batting from England in the morning session quickly moved them past the follow-on target and they were eventually dismissed for 368, handing Australia a lead of 159.

Australia then aimed to put quick runs on the board, and the move to open with David Warner helped them build their lead in good time and they looked to be close to declaring when, early in the final session, despite the floodlights being on, play was suspended with them on 172 for seven.

Australia were clearly keen to continue, onlookers and spectators struggled to come to terms with why the players were being taken off in conditions that looked far from threatening before the rain moved in to provide a more legitimate reason for an early finish.

England's first runs of the day came as Matthew Prior drove Ryan Harris through the covers for a boundary and after that, the majority of the early runs came in fours, his next boundary bringing up England's 300.

Broad, who played a fine innings, also cover drove for four, then watched as a spinning delivery from Nathan Lyon flew through for two byes and then edged Harris twice more through the vacant third man area. Another boundary thrashed through covers saw England pass the follow-on target in just 24 minutes of play.

Broad had made 32 in 66 balls when he edged Lyon to Brad Haddin, bringing to an end a partnership of 58. Graeme Swann (11) smashed Lyon for a huge six but after an ineffectual start from Harris, his replacement Peter Siddle struck quickly to end Swann's cameo, cutting him in half and having him caught by Haddin.

Prior was then the last man to fall for 30 when he was caught by Warner at point off Siddle, who returned four for 63 to emerge as the pick of the bowlers.

Warner then raced off the pitch to take up his position at the top of the order alongside Chris Rogers, who struck a convincing blow when he pulled Broad to the midwicket boundary early but he wouldn't make it to lunch, caught behind off Broad for 12 and Australia reached the interval on 24 for one.

Warner was quick to pounce on anything short or wide offered by England, hitting five fours before England worked him over with the short ball. They unsuccessfully reviewed a caught-behind decision that was turned down, Tim Bresnan struck him on the thumb and finally he fell when he hooked Bresnan to Root at deep square leg.

Usman Khawaja overcame a difficult start to make 24 in 38 balls before he was bowled behind his legs by Swann and Shane Watson, coming in at number four, made 18 before he was caught at third man by Kevin Pietersen, who hardly had to move, as Bresnan found success with another short ball.

Steve Smith, who batted excellently in the first innings, came out and first hammered Bresnan, and then Swann, for maximums over the off-side but went little further before he was run out for 19, sent back for a second run that he probably would have made by Michael Clarke.

As Haddin (8) and Mitchell Starc (11) became James Anderson's first victims of the match, Clarke was left unbeaten on 30 in 32 balls at the other end when England, predictably enough given the situation in the series, and the way in which they had wasted time throughout Australis's innings, in light that the umpires deemed to be unsafe, attempted to bowl Broad instead of a slower bowler.

Clarke's displeasure was obvious but then 15 minutes later, the rain did arrive to completely rule out any further play and with more rain forecast for the final day, it is looking increasingly likely that England may already have done enough to retain the Ashes.

© Cricket World 2013