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  • England v Australia, 3rd Test, Old Trafford, 5th day

England survive scare to retain Ashes

The Report by Daniel Brettig
August 5, 2013 « Live County Championship coverage | Chartbeat test »
Michael Clarke looks to the heavens as the rain starts to fall © PA Photos
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England 368 and 37 for 3 (Root 13*, Bell 2*) drew with Australia 527 for 7 dec and 172 for 7 dec
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England have retained the Ashes after the third Test at Old Trafford was declared a draw. Rainfall shortly after lunch finally ended Australia's hopes of keeping the series alive, but not before the tourists had given England an early scare.

Two wickets to Ryan Harris and a hotly-debated caught-behind decision to dismiss Kevin Pietersen sent England hurtling to 35 for 3 on the final morning. Rain delayed the start by half an hour, but Australia showed plenty of purpose in the field to strike three important blows, Harris and Peter Siddle both outstanding.

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Glorious Goodwood? © PA Photos

It might have been even worse for England, had Michael Clarke held onto the sort of slips chance he would usually claim when Joe Root snicked Siddle, but Pietersen's exit left the tourists feeling chipper. Pietersen looked distraught to be given out, though aural evidence backed up Tony Hill's call and that of the third umpire Kumar Dharmasena.

Manchester began to cloud over again as the session drew to a close, and Australia will require a good deal more of the fortunate weather that allowed them to make three morning incisions despite a glut of unfavourable forecasts. Rain overnight and this morning left many pessimistic about the chances of a resumption, with England needing only a draw to retain the Ashes after victories in the first two Tests of the series.

However, the skies cleared enough for a concerted cleaning and drying effort from the ground staff, starting at around 10am, and following an inspection at 10.45 Hill and Marais Erasmus informed the captains Clarke and Alastair Cook of their plans to resume.

Clarke immediately declared, and threw the ball to Harris when play began at 11.30. As he has done repeatedly when called on, Harris responded with a spell of heart and skill, picking up two early wickets. Cook was drawn across his crease by balls angled towards the slips and then pinned lbw by an inswinger. He referred even though the ball was curling in to hit middle stump, adding to the gravity of the blow.

Jonathan Trott has looked out of sorts in this match, and Harris worked him over in similar fashion, moving outswingers away then arrowing the odd ball back in. Harris' first attempt at the plan resulted in an awfully close lbw shout declined by Hill. Australia's referral was lost as the ball was hitting less than half of leg stump, but in Harris' next over Trott again fell across his crease, this time glancing straight into Brad Haddin's gloves.

Pietersen announced his arrival with a prancing pull shot that signalled Harris' withdrawal after a fine spell. In Siddle's first over replacing him, Root was squared up by a ball angled in and seaming away, but Clarke surprised everyone in attendance by dropping the chance. Australian heads were not to be bowed for long however, as Siddle appeared to extract a fine edge from Pietersen as he prodded forward.

Hill's finger was raised, an upset Pietersen referred, and Dharmasena upheld the on-field call after a sound could be heard at the moment ball passed bat. Pietersen walked off muttering, and minutes later Australia followed him with a spring in their step, but it was not to be. With less than an over completed after lunch, the rain came and the covers went on. Shortly before 5pm, the umpires declared the match drawn.

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

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