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England vs Australia, 4th Test, Day 4: Joe Root Removes Marnus Labuschagne As Rain Frustrates England’s Ashes Push

Joe Root dismissed Australian century-maker Marnus Labuschagne but rain returned to Old Trafford to frustrate England’s hopes of forcing a series-levelling win in the fourth Test on Saturday. Only 30 overs had been bowled during the fourth day when the wet weather swept back in during the revised tea break. Play was officially abandoned for the day at 1727 GMT. Australia are 214-5 in their second innings, still 61 runs behind England, who scored 592 in their first innings. Labuschagne was the only Australia batsman to lose his wicket on Saturday, but not before he had kept England at bay with an innings of 111 — his first Test century on English soil.

England, currently 2-1 down in the five-match series, must win at Old Trafford if they are to maintain their hopes of regaining the Ashes.

Worryingly for the home side, the weather forecast for Sunday’s final day in Manchester is terrible.

Pat Cummins’ tourists thwarted England’s bowlers, with Labuschagne and all-rounder Mitchell Marsh (31 not out) putting on 103 for the fifth wicket.

But occasional off-spinner Root, who came on after the umpires appeared to warn England captain Ben Stokes that it was too dark for him to use his fast bowlers, made the breakthrough.

Labuschagne tried to cut Root but succeeded only in edging the ball to wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow, who held a juggled catch.

Nitin Menon initially ruled not out but an England review of the Indian umpire’s decision confirmed the batsman had made contact, leaving Australia 211-5.

When play resumed Saturday at 1345 GMT, Australia were 113-4 — still 162 runs behind England, whose first innings featured a stunning 189 from opener Zak Crawley and Bairstow’s 99 not out.

Fast bowler Mark Wood rocked Australia on Friday with three wickets, dismissing Usman Khawaja, Steve Smith and Travis Head, but the home side toiled on Saturday.

Faced with the risk the umpires might take the players off the field for bad light, and so deprive England of yet more time to force a win, Stokes brought on off-spinner Moeen Ali and bowled him in tandem with Root.

Labuschagne moved to within sight of a hundred by twice launching Root high over long-on for six.

He had a lucky break on 93 when he edged Root past Crawley at slip, before a single off Moeen took him to a 161-ball century — Labuschagne’s 11th hundred in 42 Tests.

England were then left kicking their heels in the changing room as the rain returned.

A draw would mean Australia, as the holders, retain the Ashes regardless of the result in the fifth and final Test at the Oval next week.

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