Australia 103-2 and 61 behind when rain ends 4th day at MCG
By JULIAN LINDEN
Dec. 29, 2017
MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Melbourne's fickle weather slowed England's push for a consolation victory in the fourth Ashes test on Friday, with rain forcing an early end to the fourth day with Australia struggling after Alastair Cook batted through his team's entire first innings.
Trailing by 164 runs after England's first innings ended on 491 on the first ball of the day, Australia crawled to 103 for two in its second innings when play was suspended before tea because of the storm, increasing the prospect of a drawn match with only one day remaining.
The Melbourne Cricket Ground floodlights were illuminated and ground staff covered the center wicket in the hope that the match would recommence before the umpires eventually called off play for the day and ordered an early start on Saturday.
"Anytime there's a bit of rain and you're on top in the game, it's a bit frustrating," England's Australian-born coach Trevor Bayliss said. "But we have an opportunity tomorrow to win so that's the attitude we've got to take.
"We showed in the first innings that we can take a number of wickets reasonably quickly and 98 overs is more than enough time if we play well to force a result."
Australia was still 61 runs in arrears and under enormous pressure to get back into the contest as England pressed for a morale-boosting win after losing the first three matches of the five-test series to concede the Ashes.
First-innings century-maker David Warner, batting with extreme caution, was unbeaten on 40 from 140 balls when play was interrupted with the Australia captain Steve Smith 25 not out and the pair needing to build a big partnership on the final day to salvage a draw.
"The atmosphere is still great in the change rooms," Australian allrounder Mitch Marsh said. "We obviously know that we've got a big day tomorrow of batting ahead but hopefully we can come out with a draw."
Normally free-scoring batsmen, Warner and Smith added just 38 runs for the third wicket in 22.4 overs as they battled to keep their wickets intact after England captured two early victims.
Australian opener Cameron Bancroft was dismissed for 27 when he chopped a ball from Chris Woakes back on to his stumps. Then Usman Khawaja, who got off the mark with a massive six off English spinner Moeen Ali, departed for 11 when Jimmy Anderson found the edge and wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow took a routine catch.
"Even though it's still a very good (batting) wicket, it still gives us an opportunity to force a result," Bayliss said. "If we can get rid of those two guys (Warner and Smith) early on tomorrow and put some pressure on their lower order, then anything is possible."
Resuming on 491-9, England's first innings ended after just one delivery when Anderson was dismissed for a duck, caught by Bancroft at short leg off Pat Cummins.
Cummins finished with 4-117 while fellow paceman Josh Hazlewood and spinner Nathan Lyon captured three wickets each as the Australians struggled in the absence of injured strike bowler Mitchell Starc.
Cook was left stranded on 244 not out, becoming first player to carry his bat through a full innings in a test at the MCG, test cricket's oldest ground, having hosted the sport's inaugural test in 1877.
Cook set a stack of records during his marathon innings, which started on Wednesday and spanned more than 10½ hours at the crease.
The 33-year-old opener became the first Englishman to carry his bat since Mike Atherton did it against New Zealand in Christchurch 20 years ago.
The left-hander also became the first batsman to achieve the rare feat in an Ashes series since Geoffrey Boycott at Perth in 1979 and posted the highest score by a player to carry his bat, eclipsing New Zealander Glenn Turner's unbeaten 223 in 1972.