England v Australia, 3rd Investec Test, Old Trafford, 4th day August 4, 2013

Bad light then rain hits Australia's chances


Australia 527 for 7 dec and 172 for 7 (Clarke 30*, Harris 0*) lead England 368 (Pietersen 113, Cook 62, Bell 60, Siddle 4-63, Starc 3-76) by 331 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

Australia's captain Michael Clarke was far from alone in fuming as the umpires made the unilateral decision to take the teams off for bad light with the tourists leading by 331 runs on the fourth evening of the Old Trafford Test. To widespread incredulity around the ground and the world, Tony Hill and Marais Erasmus judged conditions to be unsafe for play, maintaining the officials' unedifyingly scene-stealing role in this series.

Clarke's disgust was as clear as the barely concealed relief of his opposite number Alastair Cook, for England need only a draw in Manchester to retain the Ashes. Rain arrived subsequently to end the day, but the umpires' enthusiasm to get the combatants off the ground cost 30 minutes of possible play, a figure that may prove critical should the skies clear enough on the final day to allow a full allotment of overs.

Speaking to the host broadcasters, Hill and Erasmus stated that they had deemed conditions unsafe, even though Australia had been motoring along at close to six runs per over. They also revealed they had asked Cook to bowl spin, a request England's captain understandably refused given the series scenario. Clarke remonstrated at length when asked to depart, but under current ICC regulations had no say in the matter.

No side has chased more than 294 to win in the fourth innings at the ground, but Clarke appeared to be pushing towards a lead of around 350 with more than 30 overs still scheduled to be bowled on the fourth evening. The hosts had reduced Australia's chances of forcing the victory they need to keep the series alive with doughty lower order batting on the fourth morning, but were then conspicuous in their time-wasting tactics in the field.

Matt Prior and Stuart Broad put together a critical stand of 58 that averted the follow-on, before the last man James Anderson aided England's wicketkeeper in another pesky union that pared back the tourists' first innings advantage to 159. From there England played the situation with pragmatism but little imagination, letting their over rate sag and then being happy when Hill and Erasmus made a ruling that left spectators almost as nonplussed as Clarke himself.

A series of cameos by Chris Rogers, David Warner, Usman Khawaja, Shane Watson and Steve Smith had kept Australia's runs ticking over, though a wicket fell every time they threatened to go from a canter to a charge. Watson's absence at the top of the order reflected his lack of batting confidence in the first innings, but also allowed Warner the chance to make a decent contribution to the match after his brief and less than illustrious visit to the middle on the second day.

Rogers appeared fluent again but sacrificed his wicket to an attempted ODI dab towards third man, resulting only in an edge off Broad, well held by Prior. Warner played with good sense after lunch, finding gaps on the offside and behind square leg, though England felt they had him snicking a Broad bouncer behind. A referral was used, but amid scant evidence to overturn the original decision Warner stayed, leading to a petulant reaction by Cook's men.

Eventually Warner would fall, hooking into the hands of his Birmingham Walkabout target Joe Root at deep square leg. Khawaja played neatly until being bowled around his legs by a Swann delivery that drifted and spun, Watson made his usual start before upper cutting to third man, and Smith unfurled a pair of handsome lofted straight drives before falling victim to a run out as Clarke forgot to run the first one hard.

Broad and Prior resumed in the morning with a simple goal - avoid the follow-on and then let a bleak weather forecast conspire with them to thwart Australia. Clarke opened up with a weary-looking Ryan Harris, his usual vim sapped by the previous day. Prior and Broad seemed wise to this and attacked, while at the other end Broad kept Nathan Lyon out.

Runs accrued quickly, to a combination of decent shots and fortunate edges, the vacant third slip region getting particular attention. Australia's lead was quickly diminished, and with a slashing Broad drive off Harris the follow-on was saved. Now sensing his primary task had been achieved, Broad had no qualms about turning on his heels to the pavilion after Lyon procured the thinnest of edges through to Brad Haddin.

Prior continued to attack and was dropped at shortish midwicket by a lunging Smith from Lyon. Graeme Swann did not last long, also walking after doing well to inside edge a searing delivery in Siddle's first over of the morning, but Prior and Anderson then did their best to prolong England's innings and thus reduce the time available for Australia.

This resulted in some curious shot choices and equally odd field settings, the crowd growing restless as Prior farmed the strike and Anderson looked safe enough against the few deliveries he did have to face. Drinks arrived after 67 runs had been added for the loss of two wickets - a ledger most favourable to England.

Prior did not last too much longer, skying Siddle to hand him a deserved fourth wicket. From there Cook's team would take on a decidedly defensive if not outright cynical posture, until Hill and Erasmus joined them in reducing the chances of an outright result.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • H on August 5, 2013, 12:27 GMT

    @whofriggincares Australia weren't hammered, but part of the reason for your first innings lead was inconsistent umpiring on the Agar stumping. Bell was given out in the Champions Trophy in similar circumstances, so consistent umpiring would have seen us take a first innings lead. You may point out the Broad nick but that may not have happened if we'd had a lead going in.

    That said, England should never have been bowled out for 215, and had we taken a first innings lead it would have been the bowlers masking an inept batting job. And that continued into the Lord's Test, let alone this one.

    England's selection hasn't helped matters either. With Compton opening and Root at 6, England seemed to have solved their two problem areas in the batting order, only to undo it all by moving Root (unsuccessfully, for the most part) and bringing Bairstow in. Here at OT, Australia's pace and bounce has been the difference, and when I saw the pitch I wanted Tremlett picked (but I knew they wouldn't).

  • damien on August 5, 2013, 10:58 GMT

    @mikkk, hammered in the first test? Really? That is precisely the sort of statement that proves a lot of English fans are delusional as to where the Test side is at the moment. You made 215 in the first innings at TB and conceded a first innings deficit forget who made the runs the bowlers are the more pertinent point in that innings, and then were able to bowl us out 14 runs short does that equate to being hammered don't think so. The truth is you have a very talented side that lacks the killer instinct and an unimaginative captain that will cost you more victorys in the future. You should have flogged NZ , you got dominated by the saffers in your own back yard and are far from dominating the Aussies as your talent and age profile suggests you should. As I speak cook trapped in front by a straightening ball AGAIN, imagine if his lack of form continued through to the Australian leg. Nothing worse for a test side to keep getting it's head cut off early.

  • mk on August 5, 2013, 10:37 GMT


    Why "should" Aus have won the first Test? Why "should" Aus be winning the series? This series won't be won in your imaginary world it will be won in the real world where the rest of us live and in that real world England have won the Ashes in only 3 Tests. Wakey wakey lol.

  • ESPN on August 5, 2013, 10:36 GMT

    Sivakumar: Agar was also out in single figures before going on to his record breaking partnership, and Trott was given out for a duck when he shouldn't.

  • James on August 5, 2013, 10:30 GMT

    @mikkkk, nice stirring. Expect more "flukey" late-order innings which create the illusion that these teams are evenly matched. That's what happens when you have only two good bowlers who get tired and your opposition has excellent lower-order batsmen. And perhaps the fact that England won the toss and batted first in the first two test had a hell of a lot to do with what happened - not just when Australia bats first. Oh, and then there are these "dry turners" - the new stadard English track. Perhaps they actually help England a bit to. Or maybe you think it is just a coincidence that these tracks have fallen out of the sky to neutralise Australian fast bowlers and aid Swann? Keep reading those English tabloids. And remember: Dave Warner is evil!

  • H on August 5, 2013, 10:30 GMT

    @Greatest_Game on (August 4, 2013, 22:18 GMT)

    I believe in giving credit where credit's due. I do think our batting lineup is second only to yours (the Indians are in transition, but there are some promising younger players coming through) and our bowling probably is too (mostly thanks to Swann). If we're looking purely at pace attacks, I'd say Australia's is stronger than ours.

    @Shaggy076 on (August 5, 2013, 8:00 GMT) Err, mate, there were 7 overs bowled after they went off at tea (lead of 296).

    Allowing for the change of innings, Australia would have had at least 5 overs, and maybe more (factoring in how slowly England bowled those 7 overs). And had they taken an early wicket, then been asked to bowl spin, Clarke may have done for the chance to have England two down overnight.

    Also, declaring on 300 takes the draw out of the equation. If England batted the overs, they'd get the runs. That changes the mindset of England just a bit, maybe some loose shots, bonus wickets.

  • Nicholas on August 5, 2013, 10:28 GMT

    Freddy Flintoff was right in the 2005 Ashes - they need to start putting lights on the bails so that the bowlers can see where to bowl to; Finn-knee might stop knocking the stumps down at the non-strikers end; wicket-keeper knows where to stand...

    I mean Bell comes out to bat with lots of yellow reflectors anyway, and Warner's helmet yesterday had fluorescent orange things!

    Oh but wait... lights on the bails might attract too many moths...

  • ESPN on August 5, 2013, 10:24 GMT

    Actually Broad was out in the first test and Australia should have won the first test Now England will lose this match if not for Bad light So Australia should be leading the series

  • Colin on August 5, 2013, 10:24 GMT

    Hey Jayzuz...you are the biggest conspiracy theorist out there1 Every time you whinge about pitches! All throughout the India series you whined about them (Indian pitches spinning? Never!) but failed you recognise that England BEAT India on those same pitches!! This series too you have complained about the pitches. Stop bleating and just accept your team isn't very good.

  • Will on August 5, 2013, 10:20 GMT

    Can't understand everyone's outrage at the bad light decision. As far as I can remember, no batsman has ever based their decision when offered the light on their own safety. The decision is always taken based on what's best for the batting side at that moment in the game. Imagine Michael Clarke, with the tables turned, hunting for a draw to retain the ashes. Would he have complained about his safety on such a gloomy afternoon? Of course he would! And Alistair Cook would have gladly used spin at both ends. Surely it fairer to have someone impartial make the decision?