England need weather Gods to shine on them as win-or-bust fourth Test hangs in the balance


Joe Root revived England’s hopes of forcing a series-levelling win in the fourth Test by removing Australia century-maker Marnus Labuschagne on Saturday’s rain-marred fourth day.

Australia were 214-5 in their second innings at tea, still 61 runs behind England’s first-innings 592.

A frustrating day came to an end with official confirmation that play has been abandoned.

England, currently 2-1 down in the five-match series, must win at Old Trafford if they are to maintain their hopes of regaining the Ashes. They will need help from the weather gods to shine on them tomorrow.

After rain had meant there was no play before lunch, it seemed as if Australia might get through the session without losing a wicket.

Labuschagne, whose 111 was his first Test century in England, and all-rounder Mitchell Marsh (31 not out) had held firm in a partnership of 103.

But occasional off-spinner Root, who came on after the umpires appeared to warn England captain Ben Stokes that the light had faded sufficiently to make it too dangerous to deploy his fast bowlers, made the breakthrough.

Labuschagne tried to cut Root but succeeded only in edging the ball to wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow, who held a juggled catch.

Nitin Menon initially ruled not out but an England review of the Indian umpire’s decision confirmed the batsman had made contact, leaving Australia 211-5.

When play resumed Saturday at 1345 GMT, Australia were 113-4 — still 162 runs behind an imposing England total that featured opener Zak Crawley’s 189 and Bairstow’s 99 not out.

Labuschagne was 44 not out and Marsh unbeaten on one.

Fast bowler Mark Wood had rocked Australia on Friday with three wickets, dismissing Usman Khawaja, Steve Smith and Travis Head.

But neither he nor any of the other England quicks could manage a breakthrough on Saturday.

It was not long after the resumption that Labuschagne, who had struggled for runs earlier in this series, completed his second fifty of the match following his first-innings 51.

Faced with the risk the umpires might take the players off the field for bad light, and so deprive England of yet more time to force a win, Stokes brought on off-spinner Moeen Ali and bowled him in tandem with Root.

Labuschagne then moved to within sight of a hundred by twice launching Root high over long-on for six.

He had a lucky break on 93 when he edged Root past Crawley at slip, before a single off Moeen saw him to a 161-ball century — Labuschagne’s 11th hundred in 42 Tests.

Speaking to BBC Sport Labuschagne said: “It’s hard to judge where I feel with it. Obviously it’s always very special getting a Test hundred. It doesn’t happen too often but I’m disappointed I couldn’t get us to tea.


  • Big-hitting Bairstow strengthens England's grip on must-win Ashes Test

“I feel like my game is in a really good space now. Coming into this game I was confident about my technique and how I was batting. I was able to be confident and go back to my strengths, forcing their hand to bowl a lot of balls at me and take time out of the game.

“I love talking to all the coaches and seeing what their point of view of the game is.”

Brief scores

Fourth Ashes Test, Old Trafford


First innings 592 all out


First innings 317 all out

Second innings 214 – for5 wickets

At close – Australia trail England by 61 runs with 5 wickets remaining