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29-Dec-2017 06:38:00 GMT
Aus v Eng, 4th Ashes Test, MCG, day 4

Warner, Smith and rain dampens England hopes

Melbourne: Rain halted England's push for victory on the fourth day of the fourth Ashes Test in Melbourne.

Australia were 2 for 103, still 61 behind, when bad weather intervened for the second and final time to wipe 43.1 overs off the day midway through the afternoon.

The home side had been 2-65, before David Warner, who made an unbeaten, and captain Steve Smith, with 25 not out, watchfully repelled some probing England bowling.

During England's time in the field, an Australian television station carried pictures that it claimed showed James Anderson digging his nail into the ball.

Anderson had earlier been dismissed by the first delivery of the day to conclude England's first innings at 491.

That left Alastair Cook undefeated on his overnight 244, making the opener the first England batsman to carry his bat in a Test for 20 years.

Barring any further rain - the forecast for the final day is much clearer - England still have time to push for a first win in Australia since 2011, but they need to conjure a way of taking eight more wickets on an unresponsive pitch.

The home side have already regained the Ashes by winning the first three Tests, but their chances to earn a second successive home whitewash are all but over.

England's losing streak down under looks set to end at eight matches - they have never before lost nine consecutive Tests in Australia.

Brief scores:
Australia 327 (Warner 103, Smith 76, S Marsh 61, Broad 4-51, Anderson 3-61) and 2 for 103 (Warner 40*) trial England 491 (Cook 244*, Root 61, Broad 56, Hazlewood 3-95, Lyon 3-109, Cummins 3-117) by 61 runs

The usually aggressive Warner, who struck a 130-ball century in the first innings, crawled to the slowest score in excess of 30 of his Test career.

On a surface that has lost almost all of its pace and bounce, England tried to get the ball into a state where it would reverse swing, with a little success.

That had nothing to do with Cameron Bancroft inside-edging Chris Woakes on to his own stumps for 27 - Australia's fourth drag-on of the match - but may have helped Anderson find the edge of Usman Khawaja's bat.

With Australia still 99 behind, Warner was joined by the similarly obdurate Smith, captain and his deputy almost shotless in the face of the accuracy of England's fast bowlers. Their first 100 balls together yielded only 21 runs.

The moisture from the first, 30-minute, rain-delay dampened the ball and hampered England's quest for reverse, while Australia were just starting to score more freely when the bad weather made its second, terminal intervention.

Still, the prior lack of intent to push the score along and the size of the deficit that remains would leave Australia in huge trouble if England take early wickets on Saturday morning.

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