December 18, 2017 / 3:20 AM / in 4 months

Cricket: Play resumes at WACA on final day of third test

PERTH (Reuters) - Play resumed three hours later than scheduled on the final day of the third Ashes test between Australia and England on Monday after rainwater leaked onto the WACA pitch following heavy overnight showers.

Cricket - Ashes test match - Australia v England - WACA Ground, Perth, Australia, December 18, 2017. England's captain Joe Root talks with Australia's captain Steve Smith as they inspect the pitch near ground staff using blowers as rain delays the start of play on the fifth day of the third Ashes cricket test match. REUTERS/David Gray

Already 2-0 down in the five-test series, England were in a perilous position at 132 for four when Australia paceman Pat Cummins sent the first ball down at batsman Dawid Malan (28 not out), with 28 overs lost in the morning.

The situation quickly got worse for the tourists as they lost Jonny Bairstow (14) to the first ball he faced, bowled by Josh Hazlewood when the delivery skidded low off the pitch and took the off-stump.

Ground staff had used leaf-blowers to dry out damp patches at the southern end of the wicket but were forced to abandon their work a number of times as rain squalls blew through.

Play finally got underway at 1 p.m. local time (0500 GMT).

Despite heavy rain forecast overnight, WACA CEO Christina Matthews said ground staff were unprepared for the conditions and “slow” to protect the pitch.

“The hessian (covers) got wet and it’s just been unbelievable late yesterday and last night, blustery, trying to get things,” she told ABC radio.

“I think in their efforts to try to get going they’ve been slightly slow in getting the hessian back on and things like that.

Cricket - Ashes test match - Australia v England - WACA Ground, Perth, Australia, December 18, 2017. England's captain Joe Root stands with Australia's captain Steve Smith as they inspect the pitch before the start of the fifth day of the third Ashes cricket test match. REUTERS/David Gray

“But we’ve certainly got enough people working on it.

“The hard thing for us is we don’t normally have these conditions so reacting to it is a little bit different to other places.”

The umpires had said the pitch needed to be as dry as it was at the end of day four.

“There was a bit of leakage overnight so they’re doing a bit of a drying job with the blowers,” umpire Marais Erasmus told BT Sport.

“I guess (the leak) was from where the covers join,” second umpire Chris Gaffaney added.

England coach Trevor Bayliss had described the wicket as like “plasticine” in the morning.

Cricket - Ashes test match - Australia v England - WACA Ground, Perth, Australia, December 18, 2017. England's captain Joe Root touches the pitch as Australia's captain Steve Smith and the umpires watch groundsmen use blowers in an attempt to dry it out before the start of the fifth day of the third Ashes cricket test match. REUTERS/David Gray

Australia need only six wickets to wrap up the match and reclaim the Ashes.

Australia said earlier on Monday they had an injury concern over Mitchell Starc, with the pace spearhead sustaining a bruised heel.

Editing by Peter Rutherford

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