MELBOURNE, (Reuters) – Rain dampened England’s hopes of victory in the fourth Ashes test last night, with Australia 103 for two in their second innings at tea, at the end of a weather-hit session at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
David Warner was 40 not out, with captain Steve Smith on 25 when the pitch covers came out some 47 minutes before the scheduled end of the session.
Australia need another 61 runs to make England bat again but the tourists may not have much time to attack, with more showers expected later in the day.
Australia regained the Ashes after the third test in Perth and hold an unassailable 3-0 lead in the series.
But Joe Root’s team had hope of cracking a first win after Alastair Cook’s record, unbeaten 244 propelled them to a first innings lead of 164 runs.
Australia resumed on 70 for two after lunch but added only 16 runs until a first rain interruption.
Play was soon back on but only another 33 minutes were played before the session was brought to a premature close.
England’s seamers struck twice in the morning to leave Australia wobbling at 65 for two but Warner and Smith showed patience and poise in their unbroken stand of 38.
All-rounder Chris Woakes made the early breakthrough, bowling opener Cameron Bancroft for 27, with James Anderson having number three Usman Khawaja caught behind for 11.
England had resumed their first innings on 491 for nine in the morning but were unable to add to their overnight total, with tail-ender Anderson dismissed first ball by paceman Pat Cummins, fending a catch straight to Bancroft at short leg.
That left former captain Cook unbeaten on 244, a record total among openers who have carried their bat through an innings.
Cook became the 46th player to achieve the feat in tests and also the first England batsman to do so in 20 years, since Mike Atherton’s 94 not out against New Zealand in Christchurch in 1997.
Cummins led Australia’s bowling with 4-117, with fellow seamer Josh Hazlewood and spinner Nathan Lyon grabbing three wickets each.
Anderson’s quick dismissal was the perfect start for Australia, who made 327 in their first innings, and their openers Bancroft and Warner began brightly.
England lost a review for a caught behind decision when Bancroft played at a Tom Curran ball in the seventh over of the innings.
Khawaja belted hapless spinner Moeen Ali for a six but was out not long after when he gloved a catch behind to Jonny Bairstow.