England stumble to 35 for three at Old Trafford

England stumbled to a precarious 35 for three in their unexpected battle to protect a 2-0 series lead and retain the Ashes, as the forecast rain stayed away from Manchester.

The hosts had already lost captain Alastair Cook lbw for a duck to Ryan Harris and then Jonathan Trott caught behind down the leg side off the same bowler before Kevin Pietersen had to go too - with a dash of decision review system controversy thrown in, naturally.

All credible forecasts had predicted a washout, at a ground renowned for them, on the final day of this third Investec Test.

Thousands appeared convinced and were absent, despite 18,000 tickets sold, when play got under way only half an hour late.

It was soon clear too that, after Australia declared overnight to leave England a notional ground-record 332 to win in a minimum 98 overs, a stalemate might have to be hard won for England.

Cook was gone in the third over, without a run on the board, and used up a first review for good measure after Harris had swung one into his front pad and beaten the forward defence.

The near-strokeless Joe Root needed 26 balls to get off the mark, with a three clipped wide of mid-on off Harris.

Trott survived by the most marginal 'umpire's call' as Australia also lost their first review on Tony Hill's not-out lbw verdict.

But Harris got his man in his next over, and England badly needed Root and first-innings centurion Pietersen to stay put until lunch.

Root did, via a stroke of fortune when he was dropped on four at second slip by Michael Clarke off the last ball of Peter Siddle's first over.

But there was to be no such luck for Pietersen, who appeared aghast when his review after Hill gave him caught behind driving at Siddle was not overturned via DRS.

The review contained no Hotspot vindication of the initial decision to give him out, but audio did corroborate bat-on-ball impact.

There can be no further help for England therefore from DRS.

Rain did fall during the break to postpone the re-start after lunch until 2pm, meaning five overs in the day were lost.

Only three balls were possible, though, before the rain returned to send the players off again.

That was enough time for Bell to survive a scare, ballooning a Siddle delivery over slips, that caught the Warwickshire man's thumb and required attention from the physio.