Australia slumped to 80-4 on the third day of a soggy second Ashes test before persistent rain wiped out two more sessions on Friday, leaving England's bowling attack frustrated and a draw the most likely result at Lord's.
With the entire first day having already been washed out at the home of cricket, time is running out for either side to force a victory — though England might now be the favorite.
Having eked out a first-innings total of 258 on Thursday, England used bowler-friendly overhead conditions to plunge the Australians from 60-1 to 71-4 after they resumed on 30-1.
Cameron Bancroft (13), Usman Khawaja (36) and Travis Head (7) fell in the space of 7.3 overs, and Steve Smith — the key batsman in Australia's lineup — was battling hard on 13 from 40 balls when the rain arrived a few minutes before lunch was due.
The teams left the field and didn't return, with play abandoned for the day about 5.20 p.m. local time.
Australia trailed by 178 runs, needing 29 more runs to avoid potentially being asked to follow on.
"There's not a lot we could do about the weather," said England fast bowler Stuart Broad, who has figures of 2-26 off 13 overs. "They were good conditions for bowling this morning and we'd like to have continued — that morning session got us into a really strong position."
Matthew Wade was yet to get off the mark after 23 balls and had overturned an lbw decision against him. He looks to be Smith's most important ally for Saturday.
Smith helped the Australians recover from 35-3 in the opening morning of the first test at Edgbaston, his knock of 144 starting the comeback for a 251-run win. He then made 142 in the second innings.
Getting Smith out early on Saturday will be paramount for England, which saw paceman Jofra Archer claim his first test wicket, on his debut in the five-day format, by trapping Bancroft lbw to make it 60-2.
Chris Woakes found the edge of Khawaja to allow wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow to take the catch before Broad rapped the pads of Head in front of the stumps. A not-out decision on the field was overturned, with replays showing Head was plumb lbw.
Archer was extremely disciplined, with 1-18 off 13 overs.
"We need to bowl Australia out by lunch tomorrow," Broad said. "There are 98 overs for the next two days, which for both teams has been enough to bowl each other out.
"There's certainly hope for both sides. There could be quite an intriguing game left in this test match."
On the Ashes Daily, Australian journalists Geoff Lemon and Adam Collins are following the action all around England and Wales. Their long weekly podcast The Final Word has been going for five years.
Every day, The Final Word will team up with Firstpost to bring you a new episode from wherever Geoff and Adam are on the road. On trains and buses, in pubs, on the street, in parks, on barges floating down rivers, and anywhere else that they might end up.
They are also watching an awful lot of cricket, and can summarise all the matches that you didn’t have time to see, or can bring you into the discussion about the ones you did watch.
So tune in to enjoy the coverage of one of the oldest rivalries in the history of cricket.
With inputs from AP
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