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Truncated day hampers Australia

By Chris Devine at Emirates Old Trafford

England moved ever closer to retaining the Ashes as poor weather forced an early close on day four of the third Investec Test.

Australia were 172 for seven in their second innings and 331 ahead when the teams were taken off due to bad light shortly after tea.

Rain subsequently arrived to rule out any possibility of a resumption and, with further showers forecast for day five, Australia appear to be running out of time in their bid to secure victory.

Two-nil down in the five-match series, Michael Clarke’s men must win this match at Emirates Old Trafford to have any hope of reclaiming the famous urn.

England could be happy with their efforts on a day when interruptions had been anticipated.

The hosts wasted little time in avoiding the follow-on after resuming on 294 for seven, reaching 368 to concede a first-innings deficit of 159.

As Australia sought quick runs at the second time of asking, England then struck at regular intervals while preventing the run-rate from spiralling out of control.

Should a full allocation of 98 overs be possible on Monday, England could yet record a third win in succession. However, a dry day looks highly unlikely.

Matt Prior and Stuart Broad scored freely this morning en route to 30 and 32 respectively.

The latter, typically strong through the off side, ensured Australia would have to bat again with the second of three fours in a Ryan Harris over yielding 17.

However, Broad’s fun came to an end soon after as he propped forward to Nathan Lyon and got a thin nick through to Brad Haddin.

Australia’s wicketkeeper claimed his fifth catch of the innings when Peter Siddle induced an inside edge from Graeme Swann, who earlier hit Lyon down the ground for six.

Prior and James Anderson then frustrated the tourists for more than half an hour, the former frequently refusing singles in a handy stand of 15, before Siddle wrapped up the innings.

The tireless seamer completed impressive figures of 4-63 by having Prior held at point off a leading edge.

Knowing runs needed to come quickly given the poor forecast for the remainder of the match, Australia promoted David Warner to open in place of Shane Watson.

Broad and Prior combined for a breakthrough before lunch, England’s wicketkeeper taking an impressive catch in front of slip after Chris Rogers looked to steer the ball down to third man.

Yet Warner pressed on in the afternoon to reach 41 with the aid of five fours.

England’s plan of bowling short to Warner paid off in the end; having been dealt a painful blow to the left thumb by Tim Bresnan, he pulled the same bowler straight down the throat of Joe Root at deep square-leg.

The unconvincing Usman Khawaja was then bowled round his legs by Swann and Watson also fell in soft fashion when picking out Kevin Pietersen at third man off Bresnan.

Steven Smith collected straight sixes off Bresnan and Swann, only to be run out following a mix-up with Clarke.

An early tea was then taken due to a brief shower and, although play resumed with no time lost, it was not long before the weather worsened once more.

After Anderson ousted Haddin and Mitchell Starc, who each offered up simple catches to off-side fielders, for his first wickets of the match, the umpires called a halt.

Australia skipper Clarke was less than impressed with the decision, but it mattered little as rain swept in from the south west around half an hour later.

Match Scorecard

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Evening Session

Highlights of a truncated evening session on day four of the third Investec Ashes Test

Australia 2nd Innings

5:38pm - STUMPS - The inevitable is confirmed. Day four ends with Australia 331 ahead. Further rain could well scupper a potentially thrilling finish tomorrow. Here's hoping the forecast proves inaccurate.

5:30pm - It is now pouring down and there are puddles on the outfield. Surely we are done for the day in Manchester.

5:18pm - The chances of play resuming this evening appear rather slim. It is raining steadily and the light is worse than before.

4:59pm - It's raining heavily now...

4:50pm - The umpires have just spoken to Sky Sports, with umpire Hill suggesting they were struggling to pick up the ball at square-leg.

4:32pm - Although the floodlights are on, the umpires have to be satisfied there is enough natural light in these situations. Marais Erasmus, Tony Hill and fourth umpire Nick Cook are out in the middle at present assessing conditions.

4:25pm - BAD LIGHT STOPS PLAY - Aus 172/7 and 331 ahead - The umpires decide it is too gloomy to continue. Australia captain Clarke is far from happy about this.

4:21pm - WICKET! Starc c Swann b Anderson 11; Aus 172/7 - Anderson picks up another cheap wicket as Starc spoons a slower ball to extra-cover. Australia will carry on batting.

4:18pm - REVIEW - Swann is certain he has Michael Clarke caught down the leg side and urges Alastair Cook to call for a review. England go upstairs but the decision proves misguided.

4:14pm - It’s very grey once again, but dry for the time being. I wonder if Michael Clarke has a precise figure in mind for a declaration? The lead is 324 and England have several men on the fence as they bid to keep boundaries to a minimum.

4:03pm - WICKET! Haddin c Broad b Anderson 8; Aus 152/6 - Brad Haddin collects his first four with a brutal pull off James Anderson, but offers up a simple catch to mid-off next ball. Mitchell Starc is the new batsman.

3:53pm - The action does recommence with no overs lost, but it will not be a surprise if rain interrupts proceedings again this evening.

Afternoon Session

Highlights of the afternoon session on day four at Emirates Old Trafford, which saw Australia seek quick runs

3:43pm - The rain has ceased - it looks as though we will be under way again shortly.

3:30pm - RAIN STOPS PLAY - Aus 137/5 and 296 ahead - Here comes the rain. An early tea will be taken.

3:27pm - WICKET! Smith run out 19; Aus 133/5 - Smith's promising innings comes to an end as he charges back for a second run only to find Clarke hasn't moved. The youngster returns to the non-striker's end and dives in desperation, but fails to make his ground. There certainly looked to be two there, yet Clarke idled his way through for the first.

3:24pm - Clarke almost offers a chance to gully, the only close catcher, when James Anderson returns to the attack. Smith then goes downtown off Swann to collect six more. The lead is up to 290.

3:16pm - There are smiles in the middle as Swann, perhaps attempting an experimental delivery, delivers a dismal bouncer that Clarke pulls away for one. Smith is then caught at leg slip but the ball came off his shoulder.

3:12pm - What a shot from Smith! He launches Bresnan down the ground for a glorious straight six.

3:07pm - Steven Smith is now alongside captain Michael Clarke, who will be mulling over when he might declare given the poor forecast for later today and tomorrow. Remember Australia need to win this game to have a chance of reclaiming the Ashes. There is plenty of turn for Swann at present.

3:01pm - WICKET! Watson c Pietersen b Bresnan 18; Aus 103/4 - Australia's search for quick runs leads to another soft dismissal, Watson upper-cutting Bresnan to Kevin Pietersen at third man.

2:54pm - WICKET! Khawaja b Swann 24; Aus 99/3 - That's not very impressive from Khawaja; the left-hander is bowled round his legs by Swann.

2:52pm - Australia's batsmen are predictably chancing their arm now. The score reads 96 for two after 22 overs, which gives the tourists a lead of 255.

2:37pm - MISSED CHANCE - Khawaja is beaten by huge turn when dancing down the track, but the ball flies past Matt Prior for four byes. I suppose that has to go down as a stumping opportunity, but the sharp spin gave England's wicketkeeper little chance. It is now brighter than it has been for some time, but further clouds are coming in from the south west.

2:30pm - WICKET! Warner c Root b Bresnan 41; Aus 74/2 - Warner takes on yet another bouncer from Bresnan but picks out Joe Root at deep square-leg. The crowd enjoyed that dismissal, which brings Shane Watson to the crease.

2:28pm - Khawaja hits Swann back over his head for four before the off-spinner sees an optimistic appeal for lbw against Warner turned down. The fifty partnership is subsequently brought up from 69 balls.

2:18pm - A loud cheer goes up as Tim Bresnan’s second delivery rears up to strike Warner on the chest via a glancing blow off the batsman’s left thumb. Warner requires treatment on the injured digit.

2:14pm - Usman Khawaja collects his first boundary, off Swann, with a risky stroke against the spin. Runs have come a little too freely for England’s liking since lunch.

2:11pm - Another short ball is pulled through square-leg by Warner, who then punches Broad off the back foot for an off-side four. Australia are 56 for one in their second innings and lead by 215.

2pm - Warner again cuts to the boundary, this time off Swann, before being struck on the body by a Broad bumper. The resulting leg bye extends Australia’s lead to 200. Some of the more threatening clouds appear to have missed us.

1:53pm - REVIEW - David Warner cuts confidently to the cover rope, but there is a big appeal for a catch behind next ball when Broad delivers a better bouncer. England review the not-out decision without success.

1:47pm - Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann are sharing bowling duties for England, who continue to keep a lid on the scoring rate.

1:40pm - We do get under way on time, but it is now very gloomy.

1:35pm - The hover cover is being brought off, so it looks as though play will recommence as scheduled.

1:27pm - It is not raining here yet, but the groundstaff have brought out the hover cover as the skies darken...

Morning Session

Highlights of a morning session that saw England avoid the follow-on

1:01pm - LUNCH - Aus 24/1; Warner 12, Khawaja 0 - The morning session ends with Australia 183 ahead. With grey clouds gathering overhead, it remains to be seen whether the tourists will get the opportunity to significantly extend their lead this afternoon. We shall see.

12:55pm - WICKET! Rogers c Prior b Broad 12; Aus 23/1 - Seeking to score quickly, Rogers attempts to guide Broad down to third man but only manages an edge through to Matt Prior, who pulls off an impressive diving catch in front of first slip.

12:47pm - Pantomime villain Warner gets off the mark with two to leg from the first ball he faces, before Rogers pulls Stuart Broad for four. However, this has not been a particularly brisk start by Australia, who end the fourth over on 11 without loss.

12:38pm - Warner is initially kept off strike as fellow left-hander Rogers faces the first 12 balls of the innings, scoring three runs.

12:28pm - Well this could be interesting. David Warner does come out to open with Chris Rogers. Expect attacking shots aplenty from Australia.

England 1st Innings

12:20pm - WICKET! Prior c Warner b Siddle 30; Eng 368 all out - Australia wrap up the innings at last as Prior is caught at point off a leading edge when looking to work Siddle into the leg side. The catcher, David Warner, rushes off the field, which suggests he may well open in Australia's second innings.

12:18pm - Clarke turns to Mitchell Starc in a bid to break this last-wicket stand, which is doubtless providing much frustration for Australia. A familiar scenario is played out, Prior taking a single from the fourth ball of the over before Anderson defends. It’s getting a little greyer at Emirates Old Trafford.

12:10pm - Australia finally get Anderson on strike for the start of an over, only to then see the number 11 drive Siddle through the covers for three!

12:02pm - Prior dabs Siddle just past second slip to collect his fourth boundary. Drinks are taken with England 166 behind on 361 for nine.

11:59am - Michael Clarke changes tack and brings most of his men into the ring for Siddle's next over. Good thinking from the touring captain.

11:57am - I'm not sure Australia have their tactics right here. Prior is being put under little pressure with so many fielders on the fence and, with rain expected later, the tourists cannot really afford to have time being taken out of the game.

11:52am - With only Anderson for company, Prior is now turning down singles early in the over in a bid to face as many deliveries as possible.

11:43am - WICKET! Swann c Haddin b Siddle 11; Eng 353/9 - Peter Siddle replaces the unusually expensive Harris and has Swann caught behind off a thick inside edge in his first over. England's last man, James Anderson, gets a rousing reception as he walks out to bat on his home ground.

11:39am - MISSED CHANCE - Swann plants Lyon into the stands with a powerful straight hit. Prior shows similar aggression two balls later and is dropped by a diving Steven Smith at midwicket. Smith is a wonderful fielder, but that was a tough chance even for him.

11:36am - Harris has dropped short too often this morning. New batsman Graeme Swann latches on to the paceman’s latest bouncer with a crunching pull that brings four.

11:30am - WICKET! Broad c Haddin b Lyon 32; Eng 338/8 - Lyon finally gains his first scalp, inducing a thin nick through to Brad Haddin with a flighted delivery that drew Broad forward.

11:25am - England have avoided the follow-on! Broad drives Lyon through cover for a second time, edges Harris down to third man once again and then cracks the seamer through the covers in style. Another four through the off side brings up the fifty stand and takes Broad to 32.

11:19am - The runs keep on coming for England, Broad collecting four more with an edge through the vacant third slip region. Harris responds with an accurate bouncer that strikes the batsman on the right arm, but Broad is able to shake off the blow.

11:15am - Prior carries England past 300 with a well-timed pull through midwicket off Harris. Broad then drives out of the rough for four facing Lyon but is beaten two balls later by alarming bounce. Lyon loses his line later in the over and concedes four leg-byes. England now need only 16 to make Australia bat again.

11:05am -That’s a fantastic start to the day for Matt Prior. He eases Ryan Harris through the covers to move into double figures.

11:02am - Australia start with Nathan Lyon, who has yet to claim a wicket in this match. The off-spinner beats Stuart Broad's edge with his second ball in an otherwise uneventful maiden.

Pre-Play News 

10:57am - There is certainly no problem with the weather just yet. Light, unthreatening clouds hang overhead as the players enter the field.

10:40am - England will resume this morning on 294 for seven, trailing by 233, after a fine hundred from Kevin Pietersen on day three. You can read his thoughts here.

10:33am - As that last tweet suggests, there is every chance of rain interrupting proceedings today...and the forecast for tomorrow is even worse. Making Australia bat again would therefore represent a significant boost to England's hopes of drawing the game and retaining the Ashes. For the time being, however, Alastair Cook's men are still aiming to win this match.

10:15am - Good morning from Manchester. England need 34 more runs to avoid the follow-on in the third Investec Ashes Test. As ever, ecb.co.uk is ready to keep you updated on all the action.

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