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Monday, August 9, 1999 Published at 16:20 GMT 17:20 UK

Rain spares England's blushes

The gloom descended on Old Trafford overnight and only lifted temporarily

Torrential rain came to England's rescue in the third Test against New Zealand at Old Trafford, with the match declared a draw on the final day.

Pat Murphy: "Stewart would have fancied his chances of a century"
Little more than an hour's play was possible as the wet weather in Manchester wrecked the Kiwis' hopes of taking a 2-1 lead in the series.

Former England captain Alec Stewart was left on 83 not out as the home side finished on 181-2 - still 116 runs behind.

His Surrey colleague Graham Thorpe hit an unbeaten 25 and the pair shared an unbroken third wicket stand of 63.

The tourists, seeking to continue their stranglehold on the match, had hoped to take quick wickets early in the day.

But no action at all was possible before lunch on Monday, after overnight rain had drenched a near-deserted ground.

Stewart on top

Play eventually resumed at 14:00 BST and England continued their rearguard action in determined fashion.

They began the day still in deep trouble, after closing Sunday on 118-2 in reply to to the Kiwis' huge first innings total of 496-9 declared.

[ image: Graham Thorpe smacks a boundary as the pitch eases up]
Graham Thorpe smacks a boundary as the pitch eases up
When the game eventually re-started, Stewart (47not out overnight) completed his half-century on and was given able support from his Thorpe.

Both players looked in aggressive mood on a pitch that looked increasingly placcid and showed none of the demons of the first day.

But the rain returned soon after 15:00 BST and an early tea was taken.

With no prospect of a break in the weather the umpires declared the match a draw two hours later.

Tourists dominant

The wet weather ensured England avoided defeat, despite a particularly dismal performance.

An inspired unbeaten 107 from Craig McMillan on Sunday helped New Zealand to their massive total.

McMillan was presented with the man of the match award for his efforts in taking the Kiwis into such a strong position.

But in truth it was the perfect team performance.

After a fine display by their bowlers, every Kiwi player other than Dion Nash reached double figures in an innings that put England's own efforts to shame.

The four-match series is level at 1-1 and the teams now head to the Oval for the final Test with all to play for.

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