SPORT

Ashes 2013: Australia Furious As Bad Light Hands England Third Test Initiative (PICTURES)

05/08/2013 08:06 BST

England will begin the final day of the third Ashes Test knowing they should retain the urn after light and weather frustrated Australia.

Assuming an overnight declaration from the tourists' captain Michael Clarke, England's notional victory target will be 332 after the tourists closed a rain-shortened fourth day on 172 for seven.

However the series was again marred by unfathomable umpiring, as Marais Erasmus and Tony Hill brought the teams off due to bad light at 4.46pm before the rain later confirmed the end of play.

michael clarke

Clarke held a heated conversation with Erasmus

England need only avoid being bowled out to take an unassailable 2-0 lead into the fourth Test at Durham after their victories at Trent Bridge and Lord's, but their tactics in Manchester will have frustrated even their own supporters.

A slow over-rate which Erasmus and Hill inexplicably failed to address was followed by skipper Alastair Cook's decision not to introduce England's spinners, giving the umpires the licence to take both teams off.

Though arguably Australia batted longer than advised in their first innings - considering the 0-2 deficit - England have leapt onto the backfoot so suddenly it could be mistaken for a rain dance.

Wicketkeeper Matt Prior, however, was last night confident England could chase down today's target, weather-permitting. Thirty-two overs were wiped out yesterday but Prior stressed he and his teammates were not reliant on the forecast.

"It was meant to start raining at one o'clock today, and it didn't.

"Forecasts in England are pretty good at being wrong. It would be very dangerous for us to rely on rain.

"We have to steel ourselves and prepare...as though we are going to play a full day's Test cricket.

"We know what is at the end of the line."