By Chris Devine at Emirates Old Trafford
Matt Prior knows England must not fall into the trap of believing the Ashes are already safe, even though rain appears set to wreck Australia’s bid to claim victory at Emirates Old Trafford.
Alastair Cook’s side boast a 2-0 lead in the five-match Investec Series and will keep hold of the famous urn should the third Test end in a draw.
Although Australia forged a healthy lead of 331 on a truncated fourth day, the likelihood of persistent showers tomorrow does not bode well for the tourists.
However, after seeing the heavens open several hours later than many anticipated today, Prior is taking nothing for granted.
Asked if he would be happy to see a washout tomorrow, England’s wicketkeeper replied: “More than happy. If it did, then great. But it was meant to start raining at one o’clock today and it didn’t.”
“Forecasts in England are pretty good at being wrong. It would be very dangerous for us to rely on rain or forecasts going into tomorrow.
“We have to steel ourselves tonight and prepare going into tomorrow morning as though we are going to play a full day’s Test cricket.
“We know what is at the end of the line but it goes back to one ball at a time, one session at a time and keeping it very simple.”
Prior has full confidence in England’s ability to avoid defeat should Manchester remain dry tomorrow.
“The one thing about this England team is we have become tough to beat,” he added.
“We’ll have a lot of confidence going into tomorrow that we can save the day. It is still a very good batting wicket.
“There is the odd one that bounces and the odd one that turns but you would expect that from a good Test pitch on the fifth day.
“The key to it will be getting through the new ball. As the ball gets softer it still spins but it won’t spin as quickly and it won’t bounce as much. It becomes harder work for the seamers as well.”
Michael Clarke was clearly unhappy with the decision of umpires Marais Erasmus and Tony Hill to bring the teams off with Australia 172 for seven in their second innings.
However, Prior said: “It was getting dark. Certainly for two or three overs there the light had dropped.
“You can always tell when the floodlights come on; when they’re aiding natural light you can tell and certainly when it drops below that, when you are out in the middle, it does make a massive difference.”
Australia’s most substantial second-innings score came from David Warner, who contributed 41 after being promoted to the top of the order.
Despite expressing frustration at the inclement weather, Warner was keen to remain positive.
“We knew there was going to be weather settling in today at some stage,” he added. “Hopefully it holds for tomorrow and we can come out and try and take all the wickets.
“At the end of the day we can’t control the weather. We’ve put ourselves in a great position here in this game so far. We’ve set it up for us to win the game. That’s all we can control.”
If the weather is good, Warner will resume his role as pantomime villain in the field.
"I'm not well-liked at the moment," he admitted. "But this morning was actually quite entertaining down on the boundary.
"There were a few hungover people and a few people not quite speaking what their minds were yesterday afternoon, which was fortunate.
"Come tomorrow, when I'm out on the boundary and they're full again, I think I might cop it."
Listen to Matt Prior's interview with ecb.co.uk at the end of day four