Ashes 2023 4th Test: England`s hopes of levelling the series against Australia with a win in the fourth Ashes Test were again frustrated by rain as bad weather delayed the start of Sunday`s final day at Old Trafford.
Heavy overnight rain left the outfield sodden and meant play at the Manchester ground was unable to start at 3:30 PM as fresh showers hit the Manchester ground.
With spectators still sheltering beneath umbrellas, ground staff began removing the covers at 4:15 PM as mopping-up operations got underway. As the rain stopped, the umpires announced they would hold a pitch inspection at 4:45 PM, with lunch brought forward to 4:50 – 5:30 PM, provided there was no further rain, in the hope of resuming play in the afternoon session.
Australia are 214-5 in their second innings, still 61 runs behind England`s first-innings 592, after rain meant only 30 overs` play was possible on Saturday`s fourth day.
England managed to take just one wicket in that time when part-time off-spinner Joe Root had Marnus Labuschagne caught behind, but not before the Australia No. 3 had held up the hosts` victory charge with 111.
Ben Stokes`s home team must win at Old Trafford to square the series at 2-2 and force a decider in next week`s fifth and final Test at the Oval in London. But a draw would be enough for Australia, as the holders, to be assured of retaining the Ashes, with Old Trafford notorious for weather delays — the ground has had 24 complete days rained off in Test cricket, plus an additional two entire Tests abandoned.
England restricted world Test champions Australia to 317 in their first innings of this match before racing to 592 all out, thanks largely to opener Zak Crawley`s breathtaking 189 and an unbeaten 99 from Jonny Bairstow.
Fast bowler Mark Wood ripped through Australia`s top order on Friday with a superb burst of 3-17. But Australia kept England at bay on Saturday during a stand of 103 between Labuschagne and all-rounder Mitchell Marsh (31 not out).
England are bidding to become just the second side in Ashes history to win a series from 2-0 down. The Australia team of 1936/37, inspired by batting great Don Bradman, overturned that deficit to win 3-2.
The tourists won a nail-biting first Test at Edgbaston by two wickets, where Stokes controversially declared at 398-8 on the first day, when star batsman Root was 118 not out and in a position to take the hosts to an impregnable total.
Australia won the second match at Lord`s by 43 runs, a game where England collapsed from 188-1 in their first innings to 325 all out. England, however, bounced back to win the third game of the series at Headingley by three wickets.
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Australia 1st innings: 317 all out (Mitchell Marsh 51, Marnus Labuschagne 51; Chris Woakes 5/62, Stuart Broad 2/68)
England 1st innings: 592 all out (Zak Crawley 189, Jonny Bairstow 99; Josh Hazlewood 5/136)
Australia 2nd innings: 214/5 at end of Day 4 (Marnus Labuschagne 111, Mitch Marsh 31 batting; Mark Wood 3/27)
(With AFP inputs)