Rain puts Australia on the brink of retaining Ashes, with draw looming in fourth Test

Australia is edging closer to retaining the Ashes after Manchester’s persistent rain washed out the first half of the final day of the fourth Test.

With a draw enough for Australia to keep hold of the Ashes, the increasing prospect of rain wiping out the entire day is a nightmare scenario for England.

And already play has not been able to restart on Sunday at a wet Old Trafford, with more downpours forecast for the afternoon.

England needs a significant break in the rain to allow the ground to dry before play can recommence.

Even then, the gloomy conditions would make bad light a factor and potentially block the quicks from bowling as England pursues the final five Australian wickets.

Up to an hour of lost time can be made up at the end of the day, but that would also likely be affected by the light.

There had been a brief hope of a play following lunch on Sunday, but moments after umpires approved a 1pm start, the rain returned.

Australia had been set to resume on the final day on 5-214, still needing another 61 runs to make England bat again.

That had made England clear favourites to win the match, and create a 2-2 scoreline headed into the final Ashes Test at The Oval for the first time since 1936-37.

But with every passing moment of rain, a draw and Australia retaining the urn has become the far more likely prospect.

England players have spent time on the field kicking around a football, but there is now a legitimate fear at Old Trafford that it will be the closest there is to any action.

A washout in Manchester would be anti-climactic way for Australia to retain the urn, after a series of high drama and close matches.

England already feels aggrieved by its controversial 43-run loss to Australia at Lord’s earlier this month, when Jonny Bairstow was stumped after wandering out of his crease on the final day.

The first Test was also won by Australia in thrilling circumstances, after Nathan Lyon and Pat Cummins compiled a match-winning, 55-run ninth-wicket partnership.

England hit back to make the ledger 2-1 with a three-wicket win at Headingley a fortnight ago, with this Old Trafford Test the first lopsided match of the series.

Australia, though, can take credit for resisting England for two hours of play on a rain-affected shortened Saturday, with Marnus Labuschagne the only man out on day four for 111.

Ironically, the scenes in Manchester are the total opposite to 10 years ago when England retained the Ashes after poor weather saved it from a final-day defeat in the third Test at Old Trafford.


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