England’s worst nightmare has come true with predictions of heavy rain in Manchester, and Piers Morgan isn’t happy. FOLLOW DAY FOUR LIVE.
Welcome to the Manchester Weather Watch, also known as our Fourth Day Ashes blog.
All eyes are on the sky and Josh Hazlewood even conceded after yesterday that Australia need the skies to open for most of day four and five to avoid defeat in the fourth test.
England need six more wickets to square the Ashes at 2-2, with Australia still trailing by 162 runs.
The problem for Ben Stokes and his team is that heavy rain is already falling in Manchester and threatens to wipe out much of the final two days of the test.
If Australia can hang on and avoid defeat, they will retain the Ashes regardless of what happens at The Oval in the fifth Test.
Follow the latest cricket and weather updates below.
19:55: NO POSSIBILITY TO START ON TIME
Forget any prospect of day four starting promptly at 8:00 p.m.
Lancashire Cricket provided an update about 10 minutes ago that will please those wanting rain to help Australia claim a draw.
“Unfortunately the rain is coming down much harder now here @EmiratesOT. Safe to say we are ready for a delayed start,” he tweeted.
7:35 p.m.: ‘GREATEST PARODY’: PIERS UNLEASHES
Announcer Piers Morgan unleashed on the morning of the fourth day of the fourth Test, saying it will be “the biggest farce in Ashes cricket history” if Australia retain the ballot box thanks to rain.
Morgan, who has been involved in a tit-for-tat on Twitter with former Australian sprinter Merv Hughes throughout the series, described the Australian team as “trampled, battered, beleaguered, harassed, desperate, white-flagged”.
No sign of play in Manchester this morning, according to our man on the ground, Daniel Cherny.
Not ideal for docks.
Now we wait and see if Merv has anything to say in response…
Meanwhile, Mark Taylor gives an update on the conditions of a wet Old Trafford: “Not good for people who want to watch the cricket, but the forecast is not good,” he says on Channel 9. “Talking 16 degrees tops. 90 percent chance of rain or more all day here.
“The forecast for tomorrow is not very good either. It’s terrible news for viewers and commentators and what’s great news for Australia because the chance to play today is so slim.”
7:15pm: ATHERTON — AUSTRALIA MAY NOT RECOVER FROM THIS
Former England captain Mike Atherton says Australia could be left with psychological scars from their attack on Manchester.
England are six wickets away from making the Ashes 2-2, with the weather the only hope for Australia to stay ahead in the series.
Writing in his regular Times column, Atherton said of the Australians: “They were sometimes battered again and their fast bowlers were treated with scorn, so surely there must be some psychological effect of this spraying if the series lives on next week.”
He then added: “Stokes have Australia exactly where he wants them, on the ropes and on the back foot.”
Whether England have a chance to deliver the knockout blows in Manchester, however, remains to be seen.
READ THE FULL COLUMN OF MIKE ATHERTON’S ASHES HERE
18:45: IT’S VERY WET IN MANCHESTER
English cricket fans have woken up to the news they have been dreading.
It’s raining heavily in Manchester.
The hourly forecast for much of day four called for a 90 to 100 per cent chance of rain and the covers have been on at Old Trafford this morning as rain falls across the north of England.
Local media are reporting that England may have their chance in Australia from noon to 4pm local time, but the outside forecast is bleak if you’re an English fan.
PRESSURE ON CUMMINS AFTER AUSSIES DEBACULA IN MANCHESTER
Pat Cummins’ time as Australia captain is over according to a former player who predicted he will step down after the Ashes series.
Two days of forecast rain in Manchester is the only thing that can save Australia from handing England a series-leveling victory at Old Trafford.
Mark Wood overcame Australia’s top order to leave the Aussies 4-113 in his second innings on stumps on day three, still 162 runs from getting the hosts to bat again.
Marnus Labuschagne grafted his way to 44 not out, while Mitch Marsh was unbeaten at one.
England had earlier amassed 592 in 107.4 overs as the rudderless tourists capitulated on the pitch.
The Aussies will hold off the Ashes to a draw in this match, but they’ll really need the weather to be on their side to do so.
It seems faith in the captain is also waning with former Victoria State captain Darren Berry venting his frustrations.
“This is unwatchable,” Berry tweeted. “This is absolutely insane for anyone who sees this s**t with half a hint about the game. Enough is enough now… keep hitting ’em on WTF guys.
“Pat Cummins is a terrific cricketer, to be sure, but remember this message: he will step down as captain after the Ashes series. The question is whether they go back to Smudge or advance to Head or Marsh.
The UK media are equally critical of the Australian captain saying “Australia look like a team without a leader.”
“The horrors that have visited Pat Cummins in the last three days seem to have aged him some 30 years, his billboard-friendly face redrawed in a mask of Bazball-induced torment,” Oliver Brown wrote in the Telegraph.
“It’s been a zombie display by the normally enthusiastic Australia captain. In every department, Cummins has exhibited the reverse Midas touch.
“Here in Manchester, playing his fifth Test in six weeks, he has resembled a man running through smoke. Sadly, doubts about Cummins multiply with every misstep he makes.”