After a topsy-turvy third day, England returned fire through a 58-run partnership between wicket-keeper Matt Prior and pacer Stuart Broad. They finished on 368, having avoided the follow-on.
In reply, Australia went for quick runs, trying to set the opposition a huge target on a fifth-day Old Trafford pitch. They reached 172/7 before torrential rains forced early closure of the play – in what seemed like yet another umpiring controversy.
Here are the quick flicks for the game:
Broad walks, Swann follows
Left-hander Stuart Broad was particularly aggressive on pacer Ryan Harris, hammering him for four boundaries – two of them in quick succession. However, he attempted to defend a delivery from the struggling Nathan Lyon and got a faint outside edge to the wicket-keeper.
Without waiting for the umpire’s verdict, the blond all-rounder walked off, shocking both the Aussies and spectators alike. His action was mirrored by Graeme Swann, the off-spinner edging Peter Siddle to Haddin. Looks like the English team received a speech on cricketing morality behind the scenes.
Warner’s blitz and Root’s catch
With Australia in pursuit of quick runs, maverick southpaw David Warner was sent in to open with Chris Rogers. He didn’t exactly get the side off to a flier, but scored a quick 41 in 57 balls, punishing Stuart Broad with two exquisite hits in the 14th over and milking 12 runs off it in the process.
The “Root” spectre hung large on the embattled left-hander; he ended up spooning a catch to his “arch-enemy” off a short delivery from Tim Bresnan. The partisan crowd showered him with boos while Root celebrated alongside them.
What Mario needs is a change of gloves – perhaps he can ask the retired Matthew Hayden for his boxing pair.
Watson hits the bull’s eye, Australia moans
Yet to pass 50 in this series, all-rounder Shane Watson looked to be in imperious touch as he unleashed his signature shots all over the park for a quick 18 runs. But the burly Bresnan made him an offer he couldn’t refuse – a short, wide delivery just outside off. The right-hander jumped out, and executed an out-of-control upper-cut to third man.
Like a moth attracted to the flame, the ball flew off Watson’s blade and ended its journey right into the hands of a gleeful Kevin Pietersen. The Aussie was distraught and so was his team. A poor choice of strokes, Shane!
Rain stops play?
With Australia scoring at a rapid rate and the threat of rain looming overhead, umpires Erasmus and Hill decided to bring out the light meters. After consulting with Alastair Cook, and with the rain now starting to come down hard, both officials decided to abandon the remaining proceedings of the day.
Understandably, Michael Clarke was miffed. If the game ends in a draw, England will retain the urn, which explains his annoyed confrontation with the umpires. The umpiring has clearly been a nightmare for the Aussies!
In all likelihood, there are more chances of rain on Monday. A thrilling Test that was poised for a spectacular finish has now been assailed by the weather. Australia will feel short-changed, having secured a commanding 331-run lead, if the final day is washed out. Day 5, here we come!