Ryan Harris struck twice to spark an England top-order collapse as Australia eyed a win in the third Test at Old Trafford in Manchester, England, yesterday that would keep their Ashes hopes alive.
England were 35-3 at lunch on the fifth and final day, having lost captain Alastair Cook, Jonathan Trott and first-innings century-maker Kevin Pietersen.
They needed a further 297 runs to reach their victory target of 332 after Australia captain Michael Clarke declared on his side’s overnight 172-7.
Joe Root, dropped on 4, was 13 not out and Ian Bell 2 not out.
Clarke had been angry when the umpires took the players off the field for bad light on Sunday.
It seemed the weather was against Australia once more when rain delayed yesterday’s scheduled start by 30 minutes in a match the tourists, 2-0 down in the five-Test series, had to win to stand any chance of regaining the Ashes.
Harris, though, brought one back late into left-hander Cook’s front pad to have him trapped leg before wicket for a duck with England yet to score a run.
Cook reviewed Tony Hill’s decision, but there was nothing to suggest he got an inside-edge and, with tracking technology indicating the ball had pitched in line, the umpire’s decision was upheld.
Trott survived a leg before appeal from Harris when on 9, a decision Australia reviewed only to be defeated.
However, Trott was out for 11 when he carelessly glanced Harris and was caught down the leg-side by wicketkeeper Brad Haddin.
Harris had taken two wickets for nine runs and England were 15-2.
Australia nearly had a third wicket when Root, who had taken 26 balls to get off the mark, edged Peter Siddle’s sixth ball only for the normally reliable Clarke to drop the chance at second slip as the ball hit his wrist, but Siddle had the huge compensation of having Pietersen, who made 113 in the first innings, caught behind for just 8 as he pushed forward.
Pietersen challenged the decision and while the audio part of the Decision Review System indicated a noise, there was no mark on the Hot Spot thermal imaging device.
However, Sri Lankan third umpire Kumar Dharmasena decided there was insufficient evidence to overturn Hill’s original verdict and England were 27-3.
Australia, beaten in their previous six Tests and trying to avoid equaling their all-time record losing streak of seven between 1885 and 1888, had a great chance of forcing victory. England’s main objective was to secure the draw that would see them retain the Ashes and they got some help from the weather as the rain returned after the lunch break with the hosts on 37-3.
Additional reporting by staff writer