Australia keep the urn on a rain-affected day at Old Trafford, with controversy looming over Ben Stokes

Controversy is growing after driving rain in Manchester denied England another chance to push for victory on the fifth day of the fourth Ashes test, ensuring the trophy is kept in Australia.

Thousands of people, many of them English, shouted about the rain forcing the draw and robbing the English of victory at Old Trafford, denying them victory after a strong display from the Australians.

Yet there are also thousands of people, many of them Australians, who argue that England captain Ben Stokes did not help his team’s hopes of victory by choosing not to declare, instead watching with glee as Zak Crawley, Jonny Bairstow and company piled up a lead of 275 runs.

In fact, the arguments being fired at Stokes are many: he should lose the toss in this series; it was not worth declaring with only 393 runs on the board, and after 78 overs, in the first innings of the opening Test; Jonny Bairstow’s wicketkeeping was terrible in the first and second Tests; and so on.

Regardless, there is a Test to be played in this series, at The Oval from Thursday, and even though the Australians kept the urn, they have made it clear that they want to win the Ashes series in the United Kingdom.

On the other hand, the English should be keen not to spill too much ash on home soil, and if they win at The Oval to level the series at 2-2 they will be letting everyone know that if Old Trafford had not rained heavily they would have won the series.

As it turned out, no cricket was played after both Australian openers Mitchell Marsh (31 runs) and Cameron Green (one) walked out at tea on the fourth day, as the visitors trailed England by 61.

Former England captain Michael Vaughan is among thousands of people booing Australia’s handling of the urn.

“It’s very disappointing,” Vaughan told the BBC.

“It’s the wrong way to pick a Test match, never mind the Ashes Test format.”

Stokes defended his decision not to speak at Old Trafford

“I think we look at the cricket that was played. We win the toss and bowl, Australia bowl out for 320, we get 570 for five and a half runs, we have Australia five down, then we get three hours of play after that. I think no matter what we did we would still be in the same position. Sometimes the weather just tells BBC Stokes.

“It’s sad, we can moan about it, but it is what it is. It’s sad after the cricket we’ve played to find ourselves here drawing the game when we felt we were in danger of winning.”

The England international did not respond well when asked if he would “take a hard look” at why he was 2-0 down in the series.

“No,” he said, before explaining to a BBC reporter.

“Yes, you can’t change the past. Many things can always be said about the past. These are hypothetical things. You can’t change the decisions you’ve made.

“I always stand behind the decisions I make because I know it’s the right decision to try to force a result…

“Sometimes it doesn’t go the way you want it to, but no, I’m not going to look back and question anything we did.”

Australian captain Pat Cummins admitted that keeping the urn in such circumstances was unusual

“It sounds strange,” he said.

“It’s very good to keep it. Obviously not as we would have liked, but you look back at the last series and the first two games here and put ourselves… The rain can help us, but it’s a good result.”


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