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Soggy draw ensures England keep the urn

By Chris Devine at Emirates Old Trafford

England retained the Ashes with two games to spare as persistent downpours brought a halt to Australia’s final-day charge in the third Investec Test.

A nervous finale appeared likely at Emirates Old Trafford when the tourists picked up three cheap wickets after declaring 331 ahead on their overnight total of 172 for seven.

However, rain started to fall during lunch and then set in for a prolonged period following three deliveries in the afternoon session.

Any hope of a restart disappeared at 4:39pm, umpires Marais Erasmus and Tony Hill confirming an abandonment with England 37 for three.

The resultant draw means Australia, 2-0 down, can only square the five-match series. They will need to win at the Emirates Durham ICG and the Kia Oval to do so.

While England can take plenty of satisfaction from retaining the urn so swiftly, attention will now turn to making sure an outright victory is secured.

Having triumphed by a narrow margin at Trent Bridge and a whopping 347 runs at Lord’s, Alastair Cook’s men came up against much greater resistance in this encounter and will be eager to reassert their superiority over Australia when the teams rejoin battle on Friday in Durham’s first Ashes Test.

Ryan Harris was the initial thorn in England’s side when, despite heavy overnight showers, play surprisingly got under way only half an hour later than scheduled with no overs lost.

In a new-ball spell of high class, the 33-year-old offered a constant threat and was rewarded with two wickets.

Alastair Cook fell lbw to a big inswinger before a run had been scored - a review failing to save England’s captain - and Jonathan Trott, having survived a close call for leg before when Australia went upstairs, was caught down the leg side for 11.

Joe Root received a big let-off on four when Michael Clarke shelled a regulation chance at second slip off Peter Siddle.

Yet things soon got worse for England as Siddle had Kevin Pietersen, who used up the team’s last review, caught behind.

Ian Bell accompanied Root through to lunch and the break in play was extended to an hour by a brief shower that trimmed five overs from the contest.

Bell was then struck on the right thumb by a lifter from Siddle, but that proved to be the final action as the heavens opened.

Match Scorecard

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Evening Session

 

England retained the Ashes when rain arrived to wipe out the remainder of the third Investec Test

 

4:39pm - MATCH ABANDONED - ENGLAND RETAIN THE ASHES - That's all folks!

4:35pm - Nobody in the England camp will be counting their chickens just yet, but an abandoment appears increasingly likely. It has been raining here for around two hours without a break.

4:15pm - A healthy number of people remain at Emirates Old Trafford as the rain continues to pour. To the right of the press gallery, a group of Australia fans are enjoying a right old sing-song.

Afternoon Session

3:32pm - Tea will now be taken at its original time of 3:40pm to leave as much time as possible for play this evening. If the rain does not cease, that will prove immaterial.

3:10pm - There has been no improvement in conditions. Australia need this rain to stop soon.

2:39pm - With another inspection imminent, more rain blows across the ground. The full covers are back in place and we won't be restarting any time soon.

2:27pm - There will be a further inspection from the umpires at 2:45pm.

2:24pm - The umpires return to the field with the rain having eased. It seems likely that more downpours are on the way, but it is hard to put too much faith in the weather forecasts given what we have already seen today.

2:12pm - The really torrential rain passed quickly, but we still have steady drizzle here. I wonder how many more overs will be lost?

2:05pm - Seriously heavy rain now.

2:02pm - RAIN STOPS PLAY - Eng 37/3; Root 13, Bell 4 - Bell will not need to resume his innings immediately. It has started to pour down again. Only three balls were bowled after lunch.

2:01pm - Peter Siddle beats Bell all ends up with the first ball of the afternoon session and then finds alarming bounce to induce a glove over the slips. England's number five looks to be in pain and will receive treatment on his thumb.

1:58pm - Here come Joe Root and Ian Bell. How England would love them to hang around...

1:50pm - Tea will be taken at 4:10pm and there are still a maximum of 73 overs to be bowled.

1:40pm - The rain has stopped. There are further threatening clouds around but it remains to be seen whether they will come over the ground or slip by.

1:33pm - More covers come on as the showers get a touch heavier. It looks as though the start of the afternoon session will be delayed.

1:28pm - Now we have light rain and the pitch has been covered.

1:25pm - The hover cover is being readied by the groundstaff, although it is not raining at the moment.

Morning Session

Highlights of a dramatic morning session on day five of the third Investec Ashes Test

1:02pm - LUNCH - Eng 35/3; Root 13, Bell 2 - Root and Bell see off the left-arm spinner. The clouds are gathering again and England will not mind if it rains. They are under pressure now.

12:58pm - This is interesting. Australia skipper Clarke will bowl the final over before lunch.

12:50pm - Ian Bell, the outstanding batsman of this series to date, is now alongside Root and Australia have their tails up.

12:46pm - WICKET! Pietersen c Haddin b Siddle 8; Eng 27/3 - This is getting nervy! Pietersen is adjudged to have edged Siddle behind and the decision stands despite a review from the batsman. England have no reviews left.

12:42pm - Pietersen looks to unsettle Lyon by using his feet, but fails to break the shackles.

12:39pm - MISSED CHANCE - Good grief! Root edges a snorter from Siddle to second slip, but Clarke fails to take a relatively simple chance!

12:37pm - There is early turn for Lyon before Peter Siddle comes on at the Statham End.

12:31pm - Harris drops short to Kevin Pietersen, who pulls powerfully to get off the mark with a four. Off-spinner Nathan Lyon is introduced in place of Watson.

12:27pm - WICKET! Trott c Haddin b Harris 11; Eng 15/2 - Trott is unable to take advantage of his reprieve. He feels for one down the leg side and gets an edge through to Brad Haddin.

12:20pm - REVIEW - Trott plays around a full delivery from Harris and is struck on the pad. Umpire Tony Hill turns down the appeal and Australia’s review proves unsuccessful as HawkEye shows the ball was not quite taking enough of leg stump. That was a close call for England’s number three.

12:15pm - Starc, who bowled too many deliveries that could be left alone, is unsurprisingly withdrawn from the attack. Shane Watson takes over and delivers a maiden for the umpteenth time this summer. 

12:10pm - This really is a fine opening spell from Harris. Australia will hope the injury-plagued paceman is fit enough to participate in the fourth Test at Durham starting on Friday. Root opens his account, after 25 scoreless deliveries, with three through midwicket.

11:55am - England’s first boundary comes courtesy of a Trott clip through square midwicket and brings loud cheers in a ground that is filling up by the minute.

11:52am - An inside edge saves Root from falling lbw to Starc. The opener is then beaten outside off by Harris, who has found an excellent rhythm. It is now much brighter at Emirates Old Trafford. England are five for one after five overs.

11:43am - Jonathan Trott gets England going with a single to deep backward square.

11:39am - WICKET! Cook lbw Harris 0; Eng 0/1 - Starc fails to make Joe Root play in his first over, which is unlikely to impress Michael Clarke. However, the more threatening Harris then swings one back into Cook’s pads and England's skipper has to go following an unsuccessful review.

11:33am - Ryan Harris starts with a maiden to Alastair Cook. Mitchell Starc shares the new ball.

Pre-Play News

11:28am - Here we go then. Alastair Cook and Joe Root will get England's second innings started and the light appears good enough for the seamers to bowl. Ryan Harris is ready to go from the Statham End.

11:13am - It is worth noting that light could also be an issue today, even if the showers stay away. The floodlights are on at present, but the umpires have to be satisfied there is enough natural light.

11:01am - So we may well get some play after all and, at present, no overs have been lost. England need 332 to win but it is unlikely they will take many risks, particularly as more rain is likely to cut the day short.

10:47am - Both captains have been briefed on the current situation by umpires Tony Hill and Marais Erasmus. If there is no more rain, play will start at 11:30am. Australia have predictably declared.

10:40am - The umpires have emerged earlier than scheduled to assess conditions. However, it appears unlikely the rain will continue to hold off... 

10:15am - Should the players be given the green light to resume at any stage, Australia will undoubtedly declare on their overnight score of 172 for seven, 331 ahead.

Speaking to the media last night, Matt Prior expressed confidence in England’s ability to bat for as long as necessary on the fifth day.

10:07am - Optimists may be encouraged to hear the rain has actually stopped for the time being. However, we will need a substantial dry spell if there is to be any action here. It will take at least a couple of hours to get the ground fit for play. 

10am - Morning everyone. It has been raining at Emirates Old Trafford for several hours and further showers are said to be on the way. Unless there is a turnaround in the weather, England are set to retain the Ashes today.

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