HEAVY rain and a sodden outfield prevented England building a promising lead in the fourth Investec Test against India at Emirates Old Trafford as play was abandoned.
England were starting to push ahead confidently in the afternoon session of the second day and were leading by 85, with four first-innings wickets remaining, when a torrential downpour forced the players off.
Large amounts of water collected on the outfield and although the weather improved considerably in the evening, groundstaff could not get the playing area sufficiently ready for play to resume.
Play was abandoned for the day following an inspection at 5.40pm, to the frustration of the crowd.
England, after being troubled by India in the morning session, had been reasserting their grip on proceedings and were 237 for six with Joe Root unbeaten on 48.
Asked if it the conditions in the affected areas were dangerous for the players, England assistant coach Paul Fabrace said: "Of course it is.
"And the other thing is, I'm sure the Indians wouldn't be too keen to see the ball keep disappearing into that, getting wet and boggy. The umpires can't keep changing the ball every time it goes in there, and it would ruin the ball, the seam would become soft quickly, so I don't think either team would really be pleased with that."
Root had shared in an unbroken seventh-wicket stand with Jos Buttler, who was 22 not out. The players left the field at 2.15pm amid drizzle, but that quickly turned into heavy rain.
Only during what should have been the tea interval - which was official taken as scheduled at 3.40pm - did the weather relent, allowing groundstaff to begin a mopping-up operation.
The square was soon ready for action and the majority of the outfield, which had been covered in puddles, drained well but a sizeable section at one end remained under water. The water was eventually cleared but the area remained muddy and umpires Marais Erasmus and Rod Tucker felt they had little option than to abandon play for the day.
England will feel frustrated after wresting back the initiative following a difficult morning in which they lost three quick wickets.
The hosts had begun the day looking to build a commanding lead but India, chiefly through their paceman, threatened to get back into contention.
Ian Bell, 45 overnight, did reach his half-century in the second over of the morning but the luckless Pankaj Singh - still seeking his first Test wicket - and Bhuvneshwar Kumar caused problems from the outset.
Nightwatchman Chris Jordan rode his luck slightly on his way to 13 and then failed to get on top of a rising bouncer from Kumar and pulled a catch to the diving Varun Aaron at midwicket. Kumar then accounted for Bell for 58 with some fine swing bowling. Bell seemed fortunate to survive after a fine outswinger narrowly missed his outside edge but there was to be no escape as he nicked the next delivery behind to MS Dhoni.
Root did survive but he endured some awkward moments, not least when he left a Kumar delivery which almost clipped his off-stump. Root took nine balls to get off the mark and then brought the scores level with a good push through the covers for three off Kumar.
Moeen Ali pulled Kumar for successive fours but he still seemed uncomfortable against the short ball and India continued to test him. Root also seemed uneasy against such tactics and was struck on the helmet by Aaron, who went on to out-think Ali.
Ali managed to squirm two on the legside after again being forced onto his back foot but the next delivery was full and straight, and he played around it to lose his off-stump. That left England 170 for six, just 18 ahead.
Root and Buttler were not convincing but did survive until lunch and then began to play more freely in an attempt to force England ahead, in both the match and the series.
The weather interrupted their flow, however, as the dark clouds delivered the rain they had been threatening for some time.
"It is a pity because, so far, it's been a very good game," sighed Farbace. "The pitch is fantastic, so we didn't really want to come off when we did come off to be fair."