Rain pushes England in sight of series victory

West Indies 275-6 v England No play yesterday Third Test, second day

England's cricketers will have had mixed feelings as they watched the rain fall heavily here yesterday. Very few players object to a day in the dressing room with their feet up, especially if it increases their chances of a £180,000 bonus.

Michael Vaughan's side share this sum each time they win a Test series of three matches or more, and the abandonment of the second day's play in the third Test can only have increased their chances of leaving Manchester with another bumper payment due. England are 2-0 up in this four-Test series and a draw here would be enough to see them home.

The 17,500 spectators who purchased tickets for yesterday's play will not find themselves contributing to England's ever-growing kitty. Each is entitled to a full refund and the insurers used by the England and Wales Cricket Boards will find themselves handing out another £380,000 to frustrated cricket fans.

The Manchester weather is often the brunt of cheap jokes, but this is the first occasion since 1992 that a full day's play has been washed out at Old Trafford. This will be of small comfort to the ECB's insurers though, who have now had to pay out on three occasions this summer.

This ground was the venue for England's abandoned NatWest series match against New Zealand in June, and the Kiwi's were also involved in a match against the West Indies in Southampton which was called off without a ball being bowled.

There is still enough time left in this match for a positive result to be achieved. Three hours of play will be made up during the remaining three days and Test cricket is now played at a rate where teams regularly score 400 runs in a day.

If there is to be a winner, though, England are favourites. The West Indies may have 275 runs on the board but it is difficult to see Brian Lara's bowling attack dismissing Vaughan's side twice in such a short period of time.

But should England take the four remaining West Indian wickets quickly this morning, there are still enough overs left in the game for them to score 450 and put the touring side under pressure.

There is also a negative side to this washout for England. Under Vaughan's captaincy, England have won each of the five Test matches they have played this summer and a win here would give them the chance of becoming the first England team since 1959 to win every game in a home series. That summer, Peter May and Colin Cowdrey led England to 5-0 thrashing of India.

A draw or a loss here would also bring an end to England's best run of victories since the summers of 1957 and 1958. Between July 1957 and July 1958, England, under the captaincy of May, won six Test matches in a row against the West Indies and New Zealand.

And the sixth and final victory of this sequence happened to come at Old Trafford, when England beat New Zealand by an innings and 13 runs. In that match, Ted Dexter and Raymond Illingworth made their Test debuts for England.

Dexter, who was still a student at Cambridge University at the time, scored a classy 52 and Illingworth took three wickets. The game was dominated by an excellent century from May and the bowling of Tony Lock, who took 7 for 35 in New Zealand's second innings.

Tom Graveney, Godfrey Evans, Fred Trueman and Brian Statham also played in a strong England side, but the weakness of the opposition and the one-sided nature of the matches - England would have won 5-0 against the Kiwi's had rain not washed out two days play in the fifth Test at The Oval - failed to prepare them for their winter tour of Australia.

Trevor Bailey, Jim Laker and Colin Cowdrey, who had been rested once the series against New Zealand had been won, joined this group, but they were thumped 4-0 by Richie Benaud's Australia side.

Vaughan's team still have a long way to go before they threaten the record run of successive victories in Test cricket. This was achieved by Steve Waugh's all conquering Australian side who won 16 consecutive Test matches during an 18-month period between October 1999 and March 2001.

* Paul Collingwood could miss September's Champions Trophy after injuring his right knee. The middle-order batsman damaged the joint whilst playing for Durham and has been advised by medics to rest for two weeks. Collingwood, who has played in England's past 14 one-day internationals, made his international debut three years ago.

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