Rain meant there was no play before lunch on the fourth day of the fifth and final Ashes Test between England and Australia at The Oval yesterday.
Persistent early morning rain prevented play starting as scheduled at 11am and the umpires brought forward the lunch interval by 30 minutes to 12:30pm.
Conditions worsened during the morning, the rain growing more intense under increasingly gray skies as the pitch and square remained fully covered.
The bad weather was especially frustrating for Australia, who are trying to avoid their first Ashes series without a Test victory since 1977.
England, who at 3-0 up had already won the series and retained the Ashes, were 246-4 at stumps at the end of the third day in reply to Australia’s first innings 492-9 declared,
That left England 245 runs behind and still requiring a further 46 runs to avoid the follow-on.
Ian Bell, who came into this match having scored exactly 500 runs in the series with three hundreds, was 29 not out and Test debutant Chris Woakes unbeaten on 15.
Several England batsmen got in on Friday but failed to press on, with Kevin Pietersen making an unusually restrained 50 in 133 balls.
England scored 215 runs in the day’s 98.3 overs, the run-rate rarely rising above two an over, in a match where victory would mean they had won four Tests in a home Ashes for the first time.
“It’s not easy out there, it’s quite slow and I think we played some good cricket,” opener Joe Root, who on Friday made 68 — only his second 50 of the series following his Test-best 180 in England’s crushing 347-run win in the second Ashes match at Lord’s — told BBC Radio’s Test Match Special.
“You have to give credit to Australia, they bowled well and we had to work really hard for the runs we got,” the 22-year-old Yorkshireman said.
Australia fast bowler Peter Siddle said: “It’s been hard work out there. All we can do is go out there and try to get the six wickets as quick as we can.”
Pietersen’s bottom-edged boundary — England’s first in 14 overs — off Test debutant James Faulkner saw him to a 50 on the ground where his stunning maiden century at this level secured an Ashes-clinching draw eight years ago.
However, Pietersen had failed to add to his total when he edged left-arm paceman Mitchell Starc to Shane Watson at first slip to leave England on 217-4.