Australia have retained the Ashes after the fourth Test against England ended in a rain-affected draw, with bad weather at Old Trafford washing out Sunday’s final day.

The result ensured Australia, as the holders, kept the Ashes at 2-1 up with one match left in the series – regardless of the result of next week’s fifth Test at The Oval.

Heavy overnight rain left the outfield sodden and meant play was unable to start as scheduled at 11:00 am (1000 GMT) in Manchester.

No sooner had it been announced that play would resume at 1200 GMT, provided there was no further rain, the ground was subjected to a fresh downpour lasting several hours.

The match was officially abandoned by the umpires as a draw at 1624 GMT.

Despite this draw, Australia will still have to avoid defeat at The Oval if they are to secure their first Ashes series win in England since 2001.

“The group should be pretty proud. Our preference is to come over here and win the Ashes but it’s nice to retain it, albeit not in the best of circumstances,” Australia captain Pat Cummins said.

England skipper Ben Stokes was understandably downbeat, saying: “It is a tough one to take, playing the cricket we did over the first three days, but it is all part of the journey.

“We knew what we needed to do and that played into our hands. It was another do-or-die game for us and I don’t think we could have done much more – bowling them out and then scoring 590.

“We have got one game left and we want to go out with a win and draw the series, like in 2019.”

Australia finished on 214-5 in their second innings, 61 runs behind England’s first-innings 592, after rain meant only 30 overs’ play was possible on Saturday’s fourth day.

England managed to take just one wicket in that time when part-time off-spinner Joe Root had Marnus Labuschagne caught behind, but not before the Australian had held up the hosts’ victory charge with 111.

‘The weather cost us’

Old Trafford is notorious for weather delays – the ground has now had 25 complete days rained off in Test cricket, plus an additional two entire Tests abandoned.

England restricted world Test champions Australia to 317 in their first innings before racing to 592 all out, thanks largely to opener Zak Crawley’s breathtaking 189 and an unbeaten 99 from Jonny Bairstow.

Fast bowler Mark Wood ripped through Australia’s top order on Friday with three wickets.

But Australia kept England at bay on Saturday during a stand of 103 between Labuschagne and Mitchell Marsh (31 not out).

Crawley, the player of the match, added: “We are quite flat. We were in a good position to win this game but the weather cost us.”

Sunday’s result ended England’s bid to become just the second side in Ashes history to win a series from 2-0 down.

The Australia team of 1936/37, inspired by batting great Don Bradman, overturned that deficit to win 3-2.

Australia won the first Test of the current series with a thrilling two-wicket victory at Edgbaston where Stokes controversially declared at 398-8 on the opening day, even though star batsman Root was 118 not out.

The tourists went 2-0 up with a 43-run win at Lord’s, a match where England collapsed from 188-1 to 325 all out in their first innings before Stokes gave his side hope of achieving an improbable run-chase with a stunning 155.

England bounced back to take the third Test at Headingley by three wickets, but the Manchester rain ensured that wasn’t enough to spark an Ashes-winning fightback.