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Cricket: Rain frustrates England in fourth Test

England were on the cusp of regaining control of the fourth Test against India at Old Trafford when rain forced an early close to Friday's second day.

MANCHESTER, United Kingdom: England were on the cusp of regaining control of the fourth Test against India at Old Trafford when rain forced an early close to Friday's second day.

England were 237 for six in reply to India's 152 all out, a lead of 85 runs. Joe Root was 48 not out and Jos Buttler, on his Lancashire home ground, 22 not out, with their unbroken seventh-wicket partnership so far worth 67 runs.

What became heavy rain forced the players from the field at 2:15pm local time (1315GMT). Although the sun later broke through the clouds and and groundstaff appeared to get most of the outfield into a playable state, two large puddles on the boundary near the players' dressing rooms caused the officials concern.

After several inspections, umpires Rod Tucker and Marais Erasmus were still not satisfied with the condition of those areas and play was abandoned for the day at 5:39pm (1639GMT). It was a decision greeted by understandable jeers from spectators who had waited patiently for several hours in the hope of seeing the match re-start.

England great Geoffrey Boycott, commentating for BBC Radio's Test Match Special, was not impressed.

"This sort of thing hurts cricket," Boycott said. "There's a bigger picture. People play a fortune to watch. That's bigger than a couple of cricketers slipping over."

But Australia's Tucker said: "People want to see the cricket and we want to give them some.

"The area is still part of the playing area so it's got to be fit.

"It's a Test match, it's not an Under-12s match, so player safety is an issue."

Lancashire director of cricket Mike Watkinson added: "Our problem today (Friday) is that the grass isn't as established as the rest of the outfield.

"If we have got anything wrong, we've hit it with the waterhog and disturbed the surface."

England resumed on 113 for three after bowling out India - who won the toss - for just 152 before tea on Thursday, with fast-medium bowler Stuart Broad taking six for 25. Ian Bell was 45 not out, with nightwatchman Chris Jordan yet to score.

KUMAR AT THE DOUBLE

India badly needed an early breakthrough and swing bowler Bhuvneshwar Kumar, a thorn in England's side with both bat and ball this series, duly obliged by taking two wickets for one run in eight balls to remove both Bell (58) and Jordan (13). Bell, fresh from his hundred in England's 266-run win at Southampton - their first victory in 11 Tests - that levelled the five-match series at 1-1, completed a 63-ball fifty including eight fours and a six.

With conditions as overcast as they had been on Thursday morning, there was plenty of swing movement on offer. But it was Kumar's looping bouncer that did for Jordan as he mistimed a pull and was well caught by Varun Aaron, moving low to his right at midwicket.

And 136 for four became 140 for five when Bell, beaten the ball before by Kumar's superb outswinger, was undone by another good length delivery that this time took the edge on its way through to wicketkeeper Dhoni.

"Kumar bowled fantastically again this morning," said Bell. "We knew it was a big hour but you've got to put the ball in good areas and I thought he did that really well.

"He's done that all series, I've been really impressed by him."

Moeen Ali fell for 13 when recalled fast bowler Aaron, from around the wicket, hurried him with a short-pitcher before next ball bowling him with a full-length delivery as the left-hander aimed towards midwicket. This was only Aaron's second Test since a debut in 2011, with the 24-year-old's career interrupted by multiple stress fractures of the back.

"When I got operated on a year-and-a-half ago in London, one of my targets back then was to come on this tour," said Aaron.

"I am really glad I am here, I am finally playing, and I have had a decent match so far," added the paceman, who at stumps had taken three for 48 in 16 overs.

"As the game is poised at the moment, England are ahead obviously, but they aren't too much ahead."