<
>

Warner, Smith and the rain frustrate England's push

play
#PoliteEnquiries: Should we celebrate Cook's 244* in a dead rubber? (4:00)

Jarrod Kimber and George Dobell answer your questions from a wet day four in Melbourne (4:00)

Australia 327 and 2 for 103 (Warner 40*, Smith 25*) trail England 491 (Cook 244*, Root 61, Broad 56, Cummins 4-117) by 61 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

The weather, it seems, is not England's friend. At the WACA, they needed final-day rain to keep the series alive; despite a lengthy delay due to leaking covers, there was not enough wetness to prevent an Australian victory. And now at the MCG, England's push for a consolation win has been hampered by heavy and persistent rain that washed out half of the fourth day's play. By stumps, Australia still trailed by 61 runs but had eight wickets in hand, with their two best batsmen at the crease.

The day started with Alastair Cook becoming the highest scorer ever to carry his bat in Test cricket, before England further strengthened their position by claiming two wickets before lunch. However, Steven Smith and David Warner then steadied Australia with a patient partnership which, along with the weather, loomed as the key to the match. When play was abandoned, with only 44 overs bowled in the day, they had steered Australia steadily to 2 for 103.

Warner's tempo had been uncharacteristically slow, and his 40 had come from 140 deliveries, while Smith was on 25 from 67 balls. The only two Australian batsmen to have averaged more than 40 in Test cricket in 2017, Smith and Warner knew that the longer they could stay together, the better Australia's chances of emerging from this match with a draw. A clean sweep is off the table, but right now they would be more than happy with 4-0.

England had started the morning on 9 for 491 and it took only one delivery - a short ball from Pat Cummins that James Anderson fended to short leg - to end the innings. That left Cook unbeaten on 244, the highest score ever made by a batsman carrying his bat through a Test innings, beating the 223 scored by New Zealand's Glenn Turner against West Indies in Kingston in 1972.

Cook was also the first England batsman to carry his bat in a Test in 20 years, since Mike Atherton did so against New Zealand in Christchurch in 1996-97. His innings ended in its 634th minute, which made it the fifth-longest innings by time ever played in a Test in Australia - only Sid Barnes in 1946, Bob Cowper in 1966, Graham Yallop in 1983 and Mark Greatbatch in 1989 had stayed at the crease longer in a Test in this country.

It also gave England a 164-run first-innings lead, which meant the Australians faced plenty of work to fight back into the contest. They began their second innings solidly with a 51-run opening stand between Cameron Bancroft and Warner, but that ended when Bancroft, who had just driven a handsome boundary wide of mid-on, chopped on for 27 off the bowling of Chris Woakes.

The loss of Usman Khawaja for 11, when he edged behind off an Anderson delivery that nipped away, left Australia wobbling at 2 for 65. Smith and Warner steadied the Australians, although Warner had a narrow escape on 36 when he only just cleared Anderson at short midwicket off the bowling of Woakes.

By the time the rain arrived, the Smith-Warner partnership was worth 38 off 22.4 overs, hardly earth-shattering figures, but a sufficiently solid stand to give Australia hope of securing a draw on the final day.