Rain and Labuschagne 100 hold up England’s wish for victory
In spite of the fact that England needed to get the series to a final, they only managed to take one wicket in their 30 overs of play as Marnus Labuschagne made his first away Ashes century before being bowled out by Joe Root. The fourth day of play in a gloomy Manchester saw more cricket than many had anticipated.
Ben Stokes was informed by the umpires that it was too dark for pace bowling, and Root was only bowling as a result. The England skipper did not seem to appreciate the decision.
However, Root and Moeen Ali both caused issues late in the session with turn and bounce, and the former broke through just before tea. This was after first proving costly as Labuschagne went into three figures with a pair of sixes.
That was the extent of the play before it was suspended shortly before 6 o’clock due to the return of a heavy precipitation. Despite the gloomy weather forecast for Sunday, which includes heavy rain warnings for Manchester and the country’s northwest, England will cling to the hope that they may still force victory with a narrow window of opportunity.
Australia is still 61 down as the second new ball is bowled, despite the fact that the umpires had just taken a light reading that may play a role. If they took the lead, there would be another factor that would eat up time.
The Ashes will be retained if they draw, giving them a 2-1 advantage going into The Oval, where the best England could hope for is a split series. Australia at least has the right to extend it to the fifth day thanks to Marnus Labuschagne‘s century.
The rain had poured down throughout the morning, but as the hours passed, the biblical forecast became more accurate, and a lull formed long enough for the clean-up to begin and the performance to begin at 2.45pm. Labuschagne and Mitchell Marsh made reasonably easy progress, while England struggled to match the energy of the previous evening when Mark Wood had made significant gains.
The more aggressive batsman, Labuschagne, who scored his first half-century of the series on the first day, took advantage of anything loose as England’s quicks looked for any semblance of help from the old ball, which, for the most part, refused to do much – possibly due to becoming damp over the outfield.
While playing second fiddle in a partnership that ended up scoring 103 runs in 31 overs, Marsh did produce one excellent cover drive off Stuart Broad.
In the 58th over, England managed to change the ball, but James Anderson could only bowl four deliveries before the umpires, Nitin Menon and Joel Wilson, decided it was too dark to continue and stopped play just as Stokes was about to reintroduce Wood to the attack.
He called in his spinners, and soon there were indications that they might pose a threat when one ball from Moeen popped into Marsh’s gloves but landed securely. Labuschagne chose the right path, dancing to Root and twice throwing him into the fans as he sped through the 1990s.
But on 93, Root fired down one of his alternate seam-up swinging deliveries, which took the outside edge and sailed too high and quickly for Zak Crawley at slip, giving him a worry. The single that brought Labuschagne to his 11th Test hundred, his first in 24 innings, and only his second overseas, came in the following over when he prodded Moeen into the off side.
However, he didn’t get very far because Jonny Bairstow well retained the top edge of another slingshot ball from Root after it rebounded off Labuschagne’s effort to cut. Menon did not make the decision on the field, despite the fact that England promptly examined the situation and Labuschagne threw his bat in frustration as soon as he indicated he understood he was out.
Four balls later, Root almost had Marsh as well after pushing with force and obtaining an inside edge that flew low to Harry Brook’s left at short leg. Abdullah Shafique was difficult for Brook to channel while maintaining focus.
With the final delivery of the session, an anxious Cameron Green, who exhibits a lack of confidence with the bat, rushed forward and the ball inflated to slip, igniting excitement once more for England.
England reviewed once more, but this time it did not take the pad before using an inner edge. That was the final deed of the day. The two teams were left to anxiously monitor the weather predictions once more.