Ashes 2013: England retain Ashes as rain forces Old Trafford draw
Third Investec Test, Emirates Old Trafford (day five):
Australia 527-7 dec & 172-7 dec v England 368 & 37-3
England retained the Ashes by drawing the third Test as rain ended Australia's final-day victory push at Old Trafford.
The tourists were in a commanding position, having removed Alastair Cook, Jonathan Trott and Kevin Pietersen to reduce England to 37-3 in pursuit of an unlikely target of 332.
Test Match Special analysis
"It's the lowest amount of tension I can remember. England have retained the Ashes before the start of the grouse-shooting season. So England have held the Ashes for four out of five series, which is remarkable."
But recurring showers prevented any resumption of a compelling contest after 14:03 BST, and the captains shook hands on a draw at 16:40.
Cook's team need to draw only one of the remaining two Tests to win the series and underline their recent domination of one of sport's oldest contests.
"It's a great feeling, a strange feeling; it was a bit of an anti-climax today," said Cook.
"We've retained the Ashes and now we want to go and win them. If you'd said that after three Tests I'd have snapped your hand off to be in this position."
The intervention of the weather was a bitter blow to Michael Clarke's men, who rebounded strongly at Old Trafford after defeats at Trent Bridge and Lord's.
Bolstered by Clarke's masterful 187, the tourists piled up 527-7 in their first innings before bowling England out for 368.
Scoring quickly to push for a declaration, they reached 172-7 in their second innings on Sunday when bad light and rain ended play two hours early.
Despite most weather forecasters predicting rain until at least tea on Monday, a dry spell allowed play to begin only 30 minutes behind schedule at 11:30, with Clarke declaring on Australia's overnight score.
In overcast conditions ideal for swing bowling, Australia made the perfect start as Ryan Harris swung one back to trap Cook lbw after a failed review - his first duck in 26 innings as skipper.
With the ground starting to fill up as word spread of the unexpected resumption, Trott survived an lbw shout before tickling Harris to wicketkeeper Brad Haddin down the leg side.
The Australia assault continued as Peter Siddle, in his first over, drew a thick edge from Root which Clarke failed to grasp at second slip.
Pietersen signalled his intention to counter-attack with a pulled four, only to be caught behind playing away from his body for eight in Siddle's next over.
Pietersen referred the decision but when the television umpire confirmed he heard an edge, England had lost their most destructive batsman and, with it, their final review.
Only three balls were possible after a lunch interval extended by 20 minutes because of rain, with a heavy downpour forcing the players off. Although there were then periodic breaks in the cloud, they never lasted long enough for the match to resume.
Despite securing the Ashes in somewhat underwhelming circumstances, England will reflect with pride on their victories in the first two Tests that left Australia needing to win the three remaining matches to regain the urn.
The first Test at Trent Bridge served up a nerve-shredding conclusion as Australia's final pair took them to the brink of victory before James Anderson removed Haddin to clinch a 14-run victory.
Home sweet home
Old Trafford is England's favourite home ground for retaining the Ashes.
They have now retained the urn five times at the ground: 1888, 1905, 1956, 1981 and 2013.
The second was an altogether more one-sided affair, with England winning by 347 runs after skittling the tourists for 128 in their first innings.
Although a first England whitewash is now impossible, the hosts can target winning three Ashes series in a row for the first time since 1977 to 1981.
Victories in the final two Tests at Chester-le-Street and The Oval would equal their biggest margin of victory over Australia - 5-1 in 1978-79.