|Michael Clarke looks up to the skies as it pours,
at Old Trafford, on Monday
Manchester: Old Trafford's famously fickle weather helped shaky England retain the Ashes after steady rain fell on the final day of the drawn third Test on Monday, destroying Australia’s outside hopes of winning the series.
England, who have won the last two Ashes campaigns, lead the five-match series 2-0, and as holders will keep the urn in the event of a drawn series. At 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.
The hosts were looking for the draw but were in trouble at 37 for three when play was suspended after lunch and rain fell until the end. Australia would have fancied their chances of taking the remaining seven wickets in the final two sessions had the rain not intervened. Play was eventually called off at 4.39pm (local time) to the cheers of a smattering of hardy fans still left inside the Manchester ground.
The teams next face each other at Chester-le-Street in Durham from Friday for the fourth Test, which will be a slight anti-climax after the literal damp-squib finish at Old Trafford.
England will still want to win the Ashes outright for the third straight time while Australia will at least look to make it 2-2 and head home with some confidence for the next series between the two starting in November.
Joe Root was unbeaten on 13 from 57 balls after the young opener tried to leave every wide delivery he could. Ian Bell was four not out having been struck on the glove and seen the ball balloon over the slips just before a second rain break.
Bustling fast bowler Ryan Harris struck twice for Australia before lunch to give the tourists real hope that they could drag themselves back into the series after a 14-run loss at Trent Bridge and a 347-run humbling at Lord’s.
Rain was in the air from the start and play began half an hour late, leading Australia to declare on 172 for seven in their second innings and set England 332 to win. The hosts got off to a terrible start when captain Alastair Cook was trapped lbw by Harris for a duck, compounding his misery by wasting a review even though he was proved to be plumb in front.
Jonathan Trott (11) survived a scare when Australia reviewed a not-out call for another Harris lbw shout, technology showing it was the umpire’s call, but the tourists did not have to wait long before he edged the same bowler down the leg side to wicketkeeper Brad Haddin.
More Decision Review System (DRS) controversy followed when first-innings centurion Kevin Pietersen was adjudged to have nicked Peter Siddle behind for eight. Pietersen called for a review and despite no hotspot showing on the video replay, the third umpire upheld the decision. Television’s snicko technology, not used by the officials, suggested the batsman was out.
It was almost a lot worse for England but Australia captain Michael Clarke dropped a fairly routine edge off Root in the slips as the swinging ball moved around.
Showers during lunch meant the players came out 20 minutes late and heavier rain fell after three balls of the resumption, sending the teams off again with dark clouds hanging over traditionally wet Manchester. The umpires’ decision to go off for bad light frustrated Australia in Sunday’s evening session but there was little they could do on Monday with standing water on the outfield.