Australia retained the Ashes after rain called off no play on the final day of the fourth Test against England at Old Trafford on Sunday after several weeks of blockbuster entertainment in the closest and most thrilling Ashes contest since 2005.
Australia have an unassailable 2-1 lead with one Test remaining. England needed to win the five-match series to snatch the urn from Australia.
There was a chance of a shootout for glory in the fifth Test starting on Thursday at The Oval if England had enough time to convert their dominance in Manchester with Australia 214-5 in their second innings and 61 runs behind the hosts.
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Australia suffered a defeat on a rain-hit fifth day as the most pessimistic forecasts emerged and persistent rain prevented players from turning up midway through a torrid weekend for England. Only 30 overs of play was possible on Saturday.
Captain Pat Cummins for Australia:
England needed five wickets to win on Sunday but returned without bowling a single ball.
England have almost nailed the concept of a draw since captain Ben Stokes and head coach Brendon McCullum ushered in the fast-scoring buzzball era more than a year ago, but for the first time in 17 matches, they finally have no cards left to play in top conditions.
Instead, dreams of a strong comeback to defeat their rivals for the first time since 2015 were put on hold.
Australia were more than happy to finish the job in the pavilion rather than get out on the pitch, but any post-match celebrations may have faded a bit after this narrow escape.
There is still a lot to play for, with Australia looking to claim a first straight win on English soil in 22 years while their rivals look to level the series at 2-2 and maintain their undefeated run under Stokes.
England had made all the running here, taking a 275-run first innings lead and taking five of the 10 wickets needed to finish the job before the skies turned against them.
Five of the last six seasons were wasted without a single ball being bowled. The momentum of the series had changed when England captain Ben Stokes hit a string of sixes in the fourth innings of the second Test at Lord’s, apparently triggered by Jonny Bairstow’s controversial stumping of Alex Carey, and although his brilliant century was not enough to save the game, it did set things on a new path.
England won the Third Test at Headingley relatively easily, the first of three must-win games, and spent the first three days establishing an even more dominant position at Old Trafford on the other side of the Pennines.
Jack Crawley’s brilliant 189 and Bairstow’s 99 not out helped them post 592, England’s biggest score against Australia in a decade, and a three-wicket burst from Mark Wood strengthened the hosts’ hold on the third evening as Australia faltered at 113–4.
It was as good as it was for England, with Labuschagne scoring 111 and Mitch Marsh batting in the final session of the match to trouble the Australians.