Aussie march to victory set back by rain and bad light

 
Julian Harris
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AUSTRALIA captain Michael Clarke was left fuming yesterday as officials at the third Test forced play to be stopped for bad light, thwarting his side’s bid to record their first Ashes victory of the summer.

With the tourists leading by 331 runs and looking likely to declare and put England in to bat, umpires Marais Erasmus and Tony Hill removed the bails from the wickets, despite strong complaints from Clarke.

Soon afterwards, rain began falling on the Manchester ground, meaning that the game will be drawn unless Australia can bowl out England during today’s play. The home side currently lead the series 2-0.

“Obviously Michael [Clarke] was a little bit annoyed by that,” batsman David Warner said yesterday, referring to the decision to stop play for bad light. “He felt it didn’t change in that last half an hour but the umpires seemed to say it did.”

“It’s a bit disappointing – we knew there was going to be [bad] weather settling in at some stage. Hopefully it holds off for the final day and we can come out and try to take all the wickets,” Warner added.

England crucially avoided the follow-on with their first innings, Matt Prior and Stuart Broad extending their key stand yesterday morning to 58 runs.

When Broad was caught behind, Graeme Swann came in and smashed a four and a six before also being caught behind. Prior fought on, attempting to score runs while keeping James Anderson off strike, yet fell for 30 as England were all out for 368.

With a considerable lead, Clarke’s team came in to bat hoping to declare with enough time to have a bowl at England before the day was up.

Chris Rogers lost his wicket before lunch, allowing Warner to come in and hit an impressive 41.

Just 18 overs later, Australia were seven wickets down, yet had added a useful 172 runs to the board – enough to set England an unlikely target of 332 runs to win.