No play was possible in the morning session on day three of the fourth Ashes Test at Old Trafford due to rain.

Lunch was brought forward to 12:30 local time, with a pitch inspection due at 13:00pm provided there is no further wet weather.

Australia racked up 497-8 declared on day two, Steve Smith the star of the show with a magnificent 211 as the tourists eye a 2-1 lead that would ensure they retain the urn.

England were 23-1 in reply at stumps after losing Joe Denly in the evening session on Thursday.

A wet outfield due to dismal weather on Friday morning kept the players of the pitch, but the sun was out when it was announced lunch would be taken early.

Lionel Messi will get to decide his Barcelona future, regardless of when the star is contracted until.

Messi, 32, re-signed with the LaLiga champions two years ago, extending his contract until 2021.

But such extensions may not matter when it comes to arguably the world's best player.

 

TOP STORY – MESSI CAN LEAVE BARCELONA AT THE END OF ANY SEASON

Messi can choose to leave Barcelona at the conclusion of any campaign regardless of his contract, according to El Pais.

The Argentina superstar made his debut for the club in late 2004, and his future is seemingly in his own hands.

It remains to be seen when, or if, Messi decides to depart Camp Nou.

ROUND-UP

- Philippe Coutinho eventually left Barcelona for Bayern Munich on loan, but it could have been different for the playmaker. Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola rejected the chance to sign the 27-year-old, according to Marca.

- Left out of Juventus' Champions League squad, Mario Mandzukic is eyeing a January exit, according to Calciomercato.com. The striker was heavily linked with a move to Manchester United during the transfer window.

- Staying in Turin, Juventus could have signed Bayern Munich defender Jerome Boateng in the close season. Calciomercato.com reports Maurizio Sarri rejected a move for the centre-back.

- Ousmane Dembele was reportedly wanted by Paris Saint-Germain while they were in talks with Barcelona over a move for Neymar. But the attacker refused to leave because he is at his dream club at Barcelona, according to L'Equipe.

- Former Juventus midfielder Claudio Marchisio is reportedly in talks with Monaco, but the 55-time Italy international turned down a move to Scottish giants Rangers, according to La Gazzetta dello Sport.

- Left out of the England squad, Manchester City defender Kyle Walker is worried he has no international future under Gareth Southgate, the Daily Star reports.

Steve Smith continued to dominate England on day two of the fourth Ashes Test but Jonny Bairstow insists the hosts will not change their approach against the in-form Australia batsman.

After sitting out the one-wicket loss at Headingley that levelled the series due to concussion, Smith marked his return to the line-up by scoring a stunning 211 at Old Trafford on Thursday.

The former Australia captain was dropped on 65 and also granted a reprieve when he edged Jack Leach to Ben Stokes at slip on 118, only for replays to show the spinner had overstepped.

It was the third time Smith has reached triple figures in the series and his third double century in Tests – all of which have come against England.

Despite the top-ranked batsman again proving the main source of frustration for the hosts, who lost Joe Denly as they reached stumps at 23-1 in response to Australia's 497-8 declared, Bairstow does not anticipate Joe Root's men to alter the way they try to dismiss Smith.

Bairstow said: "Fair play to the way Smith has come out and played. He's obviously got the bit between his teeth and is in great form.

"You've got to give him a lot of credit for the way he's applied himself and scored the runs that he has.

"I am not sure we are the only team around the world who have tried a few different plans [to get him out]. We'll be sticking to the plans that we've got.

"He's played and missed to a few balls today which he hasn't previously in the series. On another day we get him out earlier."

England need a strong third day in Manchester to eat into Australia's 474-run advantage, but Bairstow is confident the hosts can turn the tide.

"There are three innings and three days of cricket left," he said. "If we can go out and apply ourselves tomorrow, bat for a long period of time like we did at Headingley there is no reason why not.

"Let's look at the next day, let's look at the next session and see where we get to."

Steve Smith felt wasteful England played into Australia's hands as he scored a magnificent double century on day two of the fourth Ashes Test at Old Trafford.

The prolific top-ranked Test batsman piled more misery on England by reaching three figures for the third time in an outstanding series, putting the tourists in total command.

Smith was dropped by Jofra Archer in the second over of the day on 65 and called back after edging Jack Leach to Ben Stokes at first slip with 118 to his name, the spinner eventually called for a no-ball after overstepping.

The former captain went on to craft a magnificent 211 - his third double hundred against England - as Australia racked up 497-8 before declaring, Tim Paine making 58 after he was dropped twice.

England were 23-1 at stumps and Smith thought Joe Root's men got their tactics wrong by bowling too short in his first Test innings since suffering concussion after being struck by an Archer bouncer at Lord's

He said: "Them bowling there (short) means they can't hit me on the pad or nick me off and it softened the ball up, so it played in our hands, I think, for us to score some big first-innings runs.

"I said before the game that if they're bowling up at my head then they're not bowling at my stumps trying to get me out lbw or caught behind the wicket. 

"I think that perhaps played into our favour a little bit. When Stuart Broad came on with the new ball he hit some really nice lengths and beat my bat a couple of times. 

"He was quite challenging when he hit that length.

"For them to go as short as they did with the new ball and soften that ball up played into our hands."

Sacked interim West Indies coach Richard Pybus believes the regional team was on the verge of something special before his abrupt dismissal at the hands of the new Cricket West Indies (CWI) administration a few months ago.

Pybus, who was previously held the role of director of cricket, was controversially appointed to the post by former CWI boss Dave Cameron, in December of last year.  Despite the ferocious debate, however, Pybus got off to a flying start after overseeing the team to a 2-1 win in a three-Test series against England.  The Windies also held England to a 2-2 draw the preceding three-match One-Day International.

Following the defeat of Cameron in the CWI elections by the Ricky Skerritt led team, however, Pybus was replaced with interim coach Floyd Reifer.  The move was particularly controversial with the World Cup only a few weeks away and captain Jason Holder later requesting that the change be made after the tournament.  

“Of all the sides I have coached around the world, this group was fantastic. We had a very good understanding as a collective group,” Pybus told the Jamaica Gleaner.

“The attitude was right, and we had mutual respect and belief as to what we wanted to achieve as a whole, and this team was ready to start winning,” he added.

“We had some really good guys in our back-room staff, guys such as Vasbert Drakes, Mushtaq Ahmed, Toby Radford, and Esuan Crandon. All these guys did an excellent job. The players responded to them well as most of them are well known around the region.”

“I have had persons tell me that they loved the way the team played in that England series with passion and aggression,” Pybus said.

 “That is the philosophy that we wanted across the board, and yes, I am disappointed that I was not able to carry on, but that is the nature of a democratic process, and these things do happen.”

 

Jofra Archer flattened Steve Smith at Lord's but Australia's masterful talisman delivered what could be a knockout blow to England's hopes of regaining the Ashes after being dropped by the paceman at Old Trafford.

Smith was ruled out of England's astonishing series-levelling win at Headingley with concussion after he was struck by an Archer bouncer in the second Test.

It was Archer who was rattled on day two of the fourth Test in Manchester, though, after failing to grab a caught-and-bowled chance offered by Smith on 65.

Jack Leach also let the batsman off the hook after he had reached an 11th Ashes century, the spinner paying the price for overstepping when he looped up a delivery which Smith edged to Ben Stokes at slip.

Smith had 118 to his name at that point but he was nowhere near finished yet, striding back to make a magnificent 211 before the tourists declared on 497-8. They reduced England to 23-1 by stumps.

If ever proof was needed that fortune favours the brave, it was provided by Smith less than three weeks after being hit on the neck by a searing short ball.

The former captain has had boos ringing in his ears since arriving in England ahead of the Cricket World Cup for his part in the Newlands ball-tampering scandal, which landed him a one-year ban and cost him the captaincy.

Yet a packed Old Trafford crowd rose in appreciation for what they had witnessed when he brought up a third double hundred against England.

Smith saluted all corners of the ground when given another standing ovation following his dismissal to Joe Root, having struck two sixes and 24 fours in the 319 balls he faced.

The irrepressible Smith started the second day looking even more fidgety than his usual hectic self at the crease but was soon toying with England after riding his luck.

He mixed unconventional strokes with glorious drives on both sides of the wicket in another incredible display of skill and application, with Tim Paine also punishing England for two drops by making 58 in a sixth-wicket stand of 145.

Only the great Don Bradman has more Ashes hundreds than Smith, while Jack Hobbs (12) is the solitary Englishman to better the ex-skipper's tally in Tests between the two old rivals.

The domineering right-hander averages 147.25 in his four visits to the crease in his first Test series since serving his suspension.

Smith showed you cannot keep a good man down and the bad news for England is there could be more runs to come, with Australia in a great position to retain the urn.

Steve Smith was in formidable form once again, scoring a brilliant double century to put Australia in a commanding position on day two of the fourth Ashes Test against England at Old Trafford.

Former Australia captain Smith marked his return to the line-up after missing the previous match at Headingley – which saw the hosts draw level in the series at 1-1 thanks to Ben Stokes' heroics – due to concussion with a stunning 211.

Tim Paine (58) was put down twice and Mitchell Starc (54 not out) cut loose to add to England's frustrations on a tough day in Manchester, Australia eventually declaring on 497-8 in the final session.

Smith looked out of sorts early on and was dropped by Jofra Archer on 65, but he held firm and brought up his 11th Ashes hundred – a tally only the great Don Bradman has bettered.

Jack Leach (2-83) thought he had Smith out on 118 but the spinner overstepped, and the 30-year-old took full advantage of the reprieves to dish out further punishment.

England were dealt a late blow when Matthew Wade snaffled Joe Denly superbly at short leg off Pat Cummins, though Rory Burns and nightwatchman Craig Overton held firm in the closing overs as the hosts reached 23-1.

Smith appeared flustered when Australia resumed on 170-3 and would have been dismissed in the opening session had Archer been able to hold on to a tough caught-and-bowled chance.

Stuart Broad (3-97) got the breakthrough by trapping Travis Head (19) leg before and Australia were 224-5 when Wade (16) skied Leach to Joe Root following a short rain delay.

Paine was put down by Jason Roy at second slip on nine in the first over after lunch as the wheels came off for England, the Australia skipper and Smith building a 145-run stand for the sixth wicket.

It could have been very different for England had Leach not been pinged for a no ball when Smith edged to Stokes at slip, while Sam Curran – on for Stokes, who left the field briefly due to a shoulder issue – failed to hold on when Paine pulled Archer (0-97) straight to him when one shy of his half-century.

Starc provided the perfect foil for the expansive Smith after the losses of Paine and Cummins, launching Broad for four successive fours.

Smith received a warm ovation after reverse sweeping England skipper Root to backward point to end his superb knock, though Starc and Nathan Lyon (26no) heaped yet more misery on the lacklustre hosts.

 

SMITH PRODUCES ANOTHER MASTERCLASS

His fidgety start did not suggest his third-best score in Tests was on the cards, but Smith soon regained his composure and was in fine fettle after a rain-shortened opening day.

Smith hit 24 fours and a pair of sixes in an outstanding innings that means all three of his double centuries in the longest format have come in Ashes matches.

ENGLAND REQUIRE SOMETHING SPECIAL

Smith's work undoubtedly has England on the back foot and they will require a seriously impressive day with the bat if they are to keep their hopes of regaining the urn alive.

After a battling second-innings half-century at Headingley, Denly failed to do anything to ease ongoing questions over the state of the hosts' top order.

MOMENT OF THE DAY

Smith's double ton would not have come to pass had Archer reacted quicker to the opportunity off his own bowling in the opening session.

The paceman was down on his haunches after seeing the top-ranked Test batsman's shot down the ground slip through his fingers.  

KEY OPTA FACTS

- Starc scored his first Test half-century since February 2017 (against India).
- Archer registered his worst red-ball figures (0-97).
- Smith has more runs in four innings than anyone else in Test cricket in 2019.
- Paine ended a run of 17 Test innings without a half-century.

Ben Stokes was troubled by a shoulder injury as Steve Smith and Tim Paine heaped further pain on abysmal England to put Australia in command at tea on day two of the fourth Ashes Test.

The tourists will start the final session on 369-5 with the astonishing Smith unbeaten on 173 - his third century and biggest score of the series so far - and Paine 58 not out in a stand of 145, but it could have been a very different story at Old Trafford on Thursday.

Smith was dropped by Jofra Archer on 65 and had a huge reprieve when he edged Jack Leach to Stokes at first slip with 118 to his name, replays showing the spinner had overstepped.

Paine was also given two lives and made England suffer by scoring his first half-century of the series as the wheels came off for Joe Root's side.

Headingley hero Stokes spent a short time off the field in an extended afternoon session due to rain on day one. While he did return, England were reeling after levelling the series in such dramatic fashion in Leeds.

Archer put Smith down in the second over of the day after Australia resumed on 170-3, but Stuart Broad - the pick of the bowlers with 3-74 - got the breakthrough by trapping Travis Head leg before.

Matthew Wade had a rush of blood and was caught by Root off Leach, yet the busy Smith reached three figures yet again before lunch after playing with increasing fluency following a somewhat shaky start.

England lost the plot following lunch, Jason Roy dropping Paine off Archer on nine at second slip before Smith was given another let-off when he nicked to Stokes, Leach paying the price for a no-ball.

Paine was spilled again, this by Sam Curran - on for Stokes, one short of a half-century and he was still there with the magnificent Smith at tea, the pair putting Australia in a great position.

Steve Smith completed his third century of the Ashes series after being dropped by Jofra Archer as England took just two Australia wickets in the morning session on day two of the fourth Test at Old Trafford.

Smith was untroubled on a dismal, weather-affected first day in Manchester after missing England's dramatic series-levelling win at Headingley due to concussion.

The former Australia captain made a shaky start on Thursday but punished Archer for failing to take a caught and bowled chance when he was on 65.

Smith, unable to play in Leeds due to a blow inflicted by paceman Archer in the second Test at Lord's, went on to score his 11th Ashes hundred - a tally which only the great Don Bradman has bettered.

The tourists were 245-5 at lunch, with Smith unbeaten on 101 after Stuart Broad (3-47) and Jack Leach removed Travis Head and Matthew Wade respectively.   

Smith was even more fidgety than usual when Australia resumed on 170-3, shuffling around the crease, edging and playing and missing early on.

The world's top-ranked Test batsman had a big stroke of luck when he drove a full toss at Archer, who put him down following through and watched the ball run away for four.

Archer generated extra pace than on day one, but it was Broad who was more threatening and he got the breakthrough by trapping Head (19) leg before. 

Australia were 224-5 when Wade (16) had a rush of blood and was well taken by Joe Root trying to launch Leach over the top following a short rain delay.

By then, Smith looked much more like himself, hitting glorious boundaries on both sides of the wicket and he kissed the Australia badge on his helmet and was given a warm ovation when he reached three figures just before the break.

Craig Overton says it is up to "someone to stand up and be the man" for England with the ball in the fourth Ashes Test after Marnus Labuschagne and Steve Smith put Australia on top on a rain-affected day one.

Stuart Broad (2-35) had the tourists in trouble on 28-2 after removing David Warner without scoring and Marcus Harris (13) on a windy, wet day in Manchester but they had recovered to 170-3 when play was abandoned with only 44 overs possible.

The in-form Labuschagne (67) and the returning Smith (60 not out) put on 116 for the third wicket before Overton cleaned up the former with a peach of a delivery.

Paceman Overton, playing his first Test on home soil, says England must look to make early inroads on the second day as they eye a 2-1 lead with one match to play.

"We feel like we can come back with a positive attitude and try to make a difference, get someone to stand up and be the man to get conditions back in our favour," said the towering quick.

"We're probably slightly behind but we felt the conditions weren't quite with us today, with the rain and wind.

"We can come back tomorrow, get a couple of early ones and we'll be right back in the game.

"Smith is obviously a world-class player, and he's back as Test number one [in the batsmen rankings].

"He's always going to be difficult but we've got our plans, so we'll try to keep going to them and hope to get him out."

Marnus Labuschagne said it was "surreal" to bat with Steve Smith after the duo frustrated England in the wind on a grim first day of the fourth Ashes Test at Old Trafford.

Labuschagne (67) and the returning Smith (60 not out) made half-centuries as only 44 overs were possible due to rain on a grey, cold Wednesday in Manchester.

Stuart Broad (2-35) reduced the tourists to 28-2 by removing David Warner without scoring in the first over and Marcus Harris (13), but they were 170-3 when play was abandoned due to rain.

Labuschagne made a fourth consecutive half-century since coming in as a concussion replacement for Smith at Lord's, but Craig Overton ended a third-wicket stand of 116 by cleaning up the new number three.

Smith made up for lost time after missing England's dramatic series-levelling win at Headingley as a result of a blow inflicted by Jofra Archer and Labuschagne relished batting with the former captain for the first time in a Test.

"I did think it was a bit surreal I had Steve Smith alongside me. It was great, I love talking to him about the game and learning off him, with that experience of a great player." said Labuschagne.

He added: "Personally I think it's been a pretty good day for us. I think it was tough conditions for everything, to get momentum with bat and ball.

"I think three for 170 is a good day. We wanted to make sure we were disciplined and stayed in because it can turn very quickly out there, as we saw when Overton bowled a very nice spell."

It was not only batting with Smith for the first time in the longest format that Labuschagne experienced, as he guarded stumps without bails due as strong gusts wreaked havoc.

He said: "When they put the bails on you could see the stumps were shaking, it was just a matter of time before they came off. It was very windy out there, I've never played a game with no bails, so that was very different.

"All in all it was pretty tough conditions for bowling."

Craig Overton removed Marnus Labuschagne to end a century stand but Steve Smith was still there with Australia on top when stumps were called due to rain on a gloomy day one of the fourth Ashes Test at Old Trafford.

England paceman Stuart Broad dismissed David Warner without scoring - the fifth time he has snared the opener in a series which is level at 1-1 - before reducing the tourists to 28-2 by removing Marcus Harris.

Labuschagne (67) and Smith (60 not out) then showed why Tim Paine chose to bat on a flat pitch by putting on 116 for the third wicket on a cold, wet and windy day that saw only 44 overs bowled.

The composed Labuschagne made a fourth successive half-century since coming in as concussion replacement for Smith at Lord's, but Overton - picked ahead of Chris Woakes - dismissed him to leave Australia 170-3 when rain brought play to an early end.

Normal service was resumed by Smith after he missed England's dramatic win at Headingley due to the impact of a nasty blow from a Jofra Archer bouncer in the second Test in London as the former captain looked totally untroubled.

The out-of-sorts Warner fell in the first over, edging Broad to Jonny Bairstow when he failed to pull his bat away in time attempting a late leave.

Harris fell leg before for only 13 as the excellent Broad (2-35) built up a head of steam.

There was relief for Labuschagne when he was given not out after being done for pace by Headingley hero Ben Stokes, with England's review for leg before unsuccessful as the decision remained with the umpire's call.

Play continued without bails due to the wild conditions when the afternoon session finally got under way following a lengthy delay, with several stoppages as litter and beach balls blew across the pitch.

Labuschagne reached another superb half-century but was on his way when he was bowled by a beauty from Overton after Smith had gone to 50 with a drive that left him on his knees.

England lost a review when a ball from Stokes struck Travis Head outside leg stump and no further action was possible after the players went off for a late tea.

 

FRUSTRATION FOR BROAD, ARCHER IN ENGLAND ATTACK

It looked as though this might be a day to remember for Broad and England when the bowler began by again getting the better of Warner and then adding the scalp of Harris.

That brought in Smith to resume the battle everyone had been waiting for with Archer, yet the England star, who has enjoyed an outstanding start to his career in the longest format, could not find the same pace or length as in previous Tests as the batsmen swatted away his threat.

Broad had at least looked in good nick but the adverse weather conditions appeared to take their toll, with the wind hindering his deliveries and even blowing the bails across the pitch to his increasing frustration.

ACCIDENTAL AUSSIE PARTNERSHIP PROVES EFFECTIVE

Labuschagne may not have got his Ashes chance in 2019 had Smith not suffered a concussion in the second Test, but Australia appear to have tripped across a hugely effective partnership.

The decision to drop Usman Khawaja looks to have been justified already, with England continuing to enjoy themselves against the tourists' openers but finding a resolute duo at three and four.

Smith was going through his full repertoire of exaggerated leaves by the afternoon as Labuschagne dug in at the other end in another impressive outing until Overton's breakthrough.

MOMENT OF THE DAY

Smith came out looking to make a statement and headed down the track in the direction of Archer after driving the quick through the off side for four.

KEY OPTA FACTS

- Labuschagne and Smith were batting together for the first time in Test cricket as they put on 116 for the third wicket.
- Smith has managed eight consecutive scores of 50 or more against England in Test cricket.
- Broad is now outright third in the list of most Test wickets for England against Australia (Ian Botham 148, Bob Willis 128 and Broad 110).
- The England bowler (16) is now just one wicket behind series leader Pat Cummins (17). Five have come against Warner.
- Warner is averaging 11.3 in this series (seven innings); his lowest rate ever in a Test series.

Marnus Labuschagne and Steve Smith steadied the ship after Stuart Broad removed both Australia openers early on day one of the fourth Ashes Test at Old Trafford.

England paceman Broad got rid of David Warner without scoring in the first over – the fifth time he has dismissed the opener in the series – and Marcus Harris (13) after the tourists won the toss.

Australia were in trouble on 28-2 when Harris departed before the in-form Labuschagne (49 not out) and Smith (28no) took Australia onto 98-2 at lunch on a cool, windy day with rain on the way in Manchester.

Smith, back in the side after recovering from concussion, survived when Joe Root reviewed after he was struck on the pad by Headingley hero Ben Stokes on 21, but umpire's call was the verdict.

The excellent Broad (2-24) saw the back of Warner yet again when the left-hander drew the bat away too late attempting to leave and edged his second ball to Jonny Bairstow.

Harris followed leg before as Broad built up a head of steam in a strong breeze, but Labuschagne and Smith played with great assurance on a good pitch.

Smith came down the track in a statement of intent after driving Jofra Archer for four and handled the short stuff with confidence after a nasty blow from the England quick ruled him out of Australia's dramatic loss in Leeds.

Labuschagne, moving up to number three with Smith fit again and Usman Khawaja dropped, played glorious drives and the former captain – who he replaced at Lord's and in Leeds – was also in ominous touch.

Smith breathed a sigh of relief when Stokes did him for pace with a delivery that came in sharply, but DRS showed the ball was clipping leg stump.

Craig Overton, in for Chris Woakes, bowled with good pace before lunch but Australia – with Mitchell Starc picked for the first time in the series – recovered well from their bad start thanks to Smith and Labuschagne.

Mitchell Starc was recalled to play in his first Test of the Ashes series but will be hoping not to bowl on day one after Australia won the toss and elected to bat at Old Trafford.

Paceman Starc replaced James Pattinson for the fourth match of the series in Manchester, while Marnus Labuschagne moved up to three with Usman Khawaja dropped and Steve Smith returning.

Smith was passed fit after missing England's dramatic series-levelling victory at Headingley due to the concussion suffered when he was struck by a rapid Jofra Archer bouncer at Lord's.

Craig Overton was preferred to all-rounder Chris Woakes in the only change to the England team.

Joe Denly is promoted to open with Rory Burns, with Jason Roy moving down the order to number four.

Tim Paine opted to bat first on what appeared to be flat track despite heavy cloud cover in Lancashire.

Michael Owen has admitted he still feels "resentment" towards David Beckham for being sent off in England's match against Argentina at the 1998 World Cup.

England held Argentina to a 2-2 draw after extra time in the second-round match before going out of the tournament on penalties.

Glenn Hoddle's team lost Beckham early in the second half when he kicked out at Diego Simeone, after being fouled by the Argentina captain and future Atletico Madrid head coach.

A public backlash against Beckham followed, with many blaming him for England's defeat. An effigy of Beckham was even hung outside a pub in London.

Owen, who dazzled at the age of 18 in his first major tournament, has revisited the controversy 21 years later.

.

Despite the passage of time, Owen has not let go of negative feelings towards his former international team-mate - later a club-mate at Real Madrid - over the Simeone incident.

Owen wrote in his new autobiography, being serialised in The Mirror: "With the benefit of hindsight and perspective, I feel that what David did probably wasn't a red card offence in the first place. While it was clearly pre-meditated, it was immature and petulant more than it was violent. But for me, that almost makes it worse.

"All I can say is that, as I sit here now writing this book, knowing how lucky a player is to appear in one World Cup, never mind more than one, I'd be lying if I didn't say that what David did that day hadn't let every single one of that England team down.

"Did he deserve the abuse he got afterwards? Certainly not. What human being needs to see his or her effigy being burned?

"But David let us down, and I still hold some resentment about it today."

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