Australia got to 172-7, a lead of 331, by the time the umpires decided the light was too low to continue with heavy rain following about 15 minutes later.
There was no more play with the day officially abandoned at about 5.40pm. Read how the action unfolded with our live text commentary below.
10.32amGood morning Ashes fans! We continue here on the morning of the fourth day in the Third Test.
10.35amEngland will resume their first innings on 294-7, which is 233 behind. Another 33 runs and they will avoid the follow-on, in which case it will be a race against time for Australia to try to win this. It's certainly heading towards a draw with the first innings still to be concluded.
10.39amYesterday was all about Kevin Pietersen. It was not known until the morning of the Test that he was even fit enough to play, but he justified the selectors' faith with what can only be described as a swashbuckling century. He targeted Nathan Lyon's spin and hit 113 at a strike rate of over 50 before he was caught in front by Mitchell Starc.
10.43amKP was supported by Ian Bell, who scored 60 before being bowled by Ryan Harris, and previously Alastair Cook who opened with a 62. Of course, there is still a long way to go should we manage to get two full days in, so there could still be many twists and turns such as a second-innings collapse from either side.
10.47amWEATHER UPDATE: On that note... We've so far had 12 clear days from a possible 12. Unheard of for a Test series in England, of course, but we have got used to it haven't we? Unfortunately, rain is expected later this afternoon - perhaps soon after lunch or at the moment more likely nearer the end of the day. Tomorrow looks even worse. At the moment, though, there is no rain.
10.53amYesterday was not just another Test century against Australia for Pietersen. During his knock he also became England's leading run scorer across all three formats of the game. His 13224 runs at an average of 45.28 put him past Graham Gooch and will see him rightly go down as one of the very best.
10.56amPlay is just about five minutes away. Matt Prior (6*) and Stuart Broad (9*) will resume England's innings to try to get the lead below 200 and thus stop Australia enforcing the follow-on. I expect that to happen as there should be enough left in the batting lineup.
10.59amThe players are out and it will be Lyon to open the bowling on day four. Let's play!
ENG 294-7After a tough day yesterday Lyon starts with some good length bowling to Broad. The England all-rounder does well to get solid bat behind the opening over, but he is unable to score and the day begins with a maiden from Lyon.
ENG 298-7Ryan Harris comes in from the other end. His third ball is slightly wide and Prior slaps the half-volley through covers for four. David Warner is the fielder who cannot reach the boundary and the Old Trafford crowd welcome him with a series of boos. Just the four from the over, with Harris tightening up his line for the remainder.
ENG 298-7Lyon to Broad again, and it's another excellent over from the bowler, with Broad unable to score from six deliveries so far this morning.
ENG 302-7Fine shot from Prior to bring up England's 300. It's a shortish ball from Harris, which Prior reads to pull through mid-wicket for four. Prior leaves most of the other deliveries; his stall appears to be just to score off the poorer balls. Which is fine when arguably the best hope is a draw now.
ENG 312-7Broad opens his shoulders finally after taking a step down into the rough to drive neatly to the rope for four. A couple of balls later a shorter one gets a huge bounce and goes behind Brad Haddin for two byes. Lyon then drifts slightly down leg and the ball goes to the rope via the thigh of Broad. an interesting over, with 10 from it but only four off the bat.
ENG 318-7There's a gap between slip and gully, which is exactly where Broad controls his edge through for four. Lyon responds with a short ball that barely bounces, with the batsman caught out trying to duck and it clatters into the top of his arm.
ENG 320-7Broad again strides forward into a drive, but this time it's stopped short of the rope for two. Just those runs from the over, but it's been a good start to the day for England with 26 runs almost taking them to the 328 they need to avoid the follow-on.
ENG 337-7Early frustration for Australia here as Broad gets another edge, this time not controlled at all, through the gap for four. That's a much better shot! Broad drives through the diving cover for another four, which means that England will not follow on. Broad races on to 28 with that one, then quickly to 32 with a back-foot swipe through extra cover. A massively expensive over ends with Broad getting the finest of glances down leg side to the rope.
ENG 338-8So Broad's early aggression comes to an end. He gets a slight edge at one that spun away from off stump through to Haddin behind. He did not wait for the umpire this time, and walked of his own accord.
ENG 338-8Just one run from the over, and the wicket was Lyon's first of the innings. Can Australia quickly wrap up the England tail?
ENG 343-8Harris continues, and his line is immediately much better than the last expensive over. That is until the new batsman Graeme Swann pulls to the rope for a four - his first runs.
ENG 353-8Fantastic shot from Swann, who belts Lyon right down the track for a huge six. He tries again, but doesn't have his hands in the right place and drags it through the leg side for one. Then the next ball Prior tries to swing himself and very nearly picks out Steve Smith at mid-wicket, but escapes with two.
ENG 353-9Swann goes for 11 off 11, and it's an odd dismissal really. Great change from Michael Clarke to bring Peter Siddle into the attack and he gets one to nip back in enough to catch an inside edge, which goes through to Haddin. Just one wicket left now.
ENG 353-9It's a wicket-maiden to start from Siddle, as the new man Jimmy Anderson sees out the final three balls.
ENG 354-9Prior is playing more cautiously now with Anderson at the other end. He pinches a single off the fifth ball of Lyon's next over which sees him keep the strike.
ENG 355-9Prior tries to pull early in the over, but can only pick out a fielder. He then cuts for what could be a single, but he refuses to take it with three balls left in the over. They do get one on the following ball, however, leaving Anderson to see out two deliveries. One is a bouncer, which is ducked under, and he survives the next too.
ENG 356-9Prior is still remaining watchful, and pinches one more single from Lyon's over to put himself back on strike to Siddle.
ENG 361-9A little bit streaky there for Prior, who goes for a cut and gets a top edge over Clarke at slip. He then gets a single, with Anderson seeing out the final two balls to take us to drinks. Australia's lead is 166.
ENG 361-9A maiden over from Lyon as Prior just cannot get the run he needs to keep striker. As such, Siddle will have six goes at Anderson.
ENG 367-9Anderson drives the first ball towards to boundary, but it's cut short which means that they run three and get Prior back on strike. Prior earns himself two and then turns down the offer of a second with a push to leg.
ENG 368-9Mitchell Starc comes into the attack to replace Lyon. Prior takes a single with a shot to deep point, which is the only one from the over.
12.25pmSo there we have it. Prior tries to clip one down the leg side but it goes straight up in the air and down the throat of Warner. Australia will bat again shortly.
12.27pmThe England players are back out for the second innings. If they can get a wicket or two before lunch then this one is wide open again.
12.30pmDavid Warner has been shifted up the order. He comes out to more round booing from the Old Trafford crown and will open alongside Chris Rogers. Anderson to open the bowling - we're ready to play.
AUS 3-0Rogers is watchful early on, but then takes a quick two with some nifty Joe Root fielding and finishes the over with another single. Not much doing for Anderson in that over in front of his home crowd.
AUS 3-0Broad comes in at the other end and almost catches Rogers out straight away. The batsman got an inside edge on what what otherwise have been a certain LBW. Very good start from Broad, with no runs coming from his first over.
AUS 5-0Warner gets himself off the mark at the start of Anderson's next over, with an easy two off the front foot. For the rest of the over Warner struggles for runs, with Anderson's final ball fortunate not to be called a wide as it was way over the left-hander's head.
AUS 11-0More good stuff from Broad to Rogers, who is increasingly getting pegged back into his crease. He tries for a single with a push to the leg side, but it's fielded well in front of square to prevent a single. He does not have to wait much long, however, as Broad offers up a medium-short one that is pulled to the rope for the innings's first boundary. A well run two finishes the over.
AUS 19-0Again Warner takes an early two runs from the start of Anderson's over, but the Burnley Express follows up with a vicious bouncer. Two more come with a lovely shot behind square leg from Warner finishes an expensive Anderson over with a four. Australia have started well and they have eight minutes to survive the rest of the session.
AUS 23-1It's a one-day shot from Rogers, who tries to steer the ball fine to third man, but doesn't get nearly enough on it and Prior makes the diving catch. It's a breakthrough for England before lunch and Usman Khawaja comes in, retaining his place at number three.
AUS 24-1LUNCH: Graeme Swann comes in to get another over in before lunch. Warner looks to attack him, but manages just one run with Khawaja seeing out the final two balls. It's been a good session and now Australia are effectively 183-1.
1.04pmAll eyes will be on the weather after lunch, but I remain hopeful that we will at least get under way on time. Do come back and join me in around 30 minutes for this crucial second session. Until then.
1.35pmHello again all and welcome back to our coverage of day for of the third Ashes Test.
1.38pmAustralia will resume their innings shortly on 24-1. David Warner and Usman Khawaja are coming back into the middle. It's cloudy and a little dark, but for now there's no rain and the floodlights remain off.
AUS 27-1Broad starts the session with the ball and is immediately pulled by Warner, but he only gets a single for his trouble. It's a defensive field from Alastair Cook, who only has one slip and several men on the boundary. Khawaja gets himself off the mark with a couple flicked off the hip, which brings up three from the first over after lunch.
AUS 29-1Warner, after a quickly run pair, looks to take on Swann, but his swipe can only pick out a fielder at cover. Just the two from the over despite aggressive intent.
AUS 34-1Broad pegs Khawaja into his crease for a few deliveries, before he relieves the pressure with a single. Warner, back on strike, wastes no time latching onto a ball short of a length and guides it through the off side for four. Then there's a big appeal as Warner swipes at a short one - it's reviewed and despite looking as though there's a mark on hotspot, the original decision stands. Very, very close.
AUS 40-1After the excitement Swann continues and Warner proves that the big appeal has not affected him by swiping a cut to the rope for four. He's looking in very good touch is the pantomime villain. Two single either side of the boundary keep the visitors' score ticking over.
AUS 41-1Good bowling from Broad, who quells Warner's attacking instincts somewhat with some good lines. A leg bye gets Warner off strike, with Khawaja remaining solid in defence when back on strike.
AUS 44-1The batsmen exchange singles at the start of Swann's next over. He is not getting a lot of turn, the spinner, which is allowing the batsmen to rotate the strike without too much issue, with Warner pushing the ball through square for a third from the over.
AUS 56-1A good shot from Warner there, who reads a shorter one well to pull from under his chin to the rope. A few balls later Khawaja tries a pull of his own, but his effort draws only a single. Warner moves on to 37 from 44 with a punch off the back foot through the covers - he is racing along here.
AUS 64-1The boundaries are coming thick and fast now; this time it goes to Khawaja. He clips slightly in the air through mid-wicket, but safe enough with no fielders in the vicinity. He then goes to the off side and they run a quick three.
AUS 66-1With 12 runs from Broad's last over, it's no surprise to see Timber Bresnan handed the ball. Anderson makes a good stop at mid-off to prevent a run and then Bresnan gets one to bounce from a good length into Warner's chest. The crowd love it and Bresnan has a sideways smile after that one. The trainer is on, not for the chest but for the thumb which the ball clipped. I think that means Joe Root's face is safe tonight. The batsman recovers to flick the next ball off his pads for a single, with a further one coming from Khawaja.
AUS 72-1Khawaja goes for a six down to ground to Swann, but doesn't quite get hold of it. Pietersen is nearish, but does not move quickly enough to stop it going for four.
AUS 74-2Bresnan continues and the batsmen each get a single to the leg side. Warner, who had slowed down slightly as he closes in on 50, goes for a big shot but picks out - of course - Root at deep square leg. It's a good catch coming forward and Warner cannot cash in on his strong start.
AUS 82-2Shane Watson is the new man in, down to four from two, which means that Michael Clarke is at five. He's put in following a single from Khawaja and gets off the mark with one at the first time of asking. Swann gets one right into the rough, which then misses bat, keeper and slip and goes for four byes.
AUS 86-2Watson clips a single early in Bresnan's next over before scampering to the striker's end following a decision to run a quick single. A further one from Watson and then a wide takes Australia's lead to 245. I reckon at about 350 they will think about declaring to leave enough time to bowl out England. It's time for drinks.
AUS 91-2Watson gets a four early in Swann's over from the faintest of touches with a sweep. Other than that the spinner is quite good with his line and allows just a single for Khawala.
AUS 96-2Bresnan continues. Watson goes for the big heave over mid-wicket, which interests Root for a while. However, the fielder cannot get there and Australia run two. Watson gets another two with a late cut to third man.
AUS 99-3Fantastic delivery from Swann. He gets one to pitch just outside leg stump and it spins back around Khawaja's legs to hit. The batsman was turned inside out there and Australia are now three down.
AUS 101-3Captain Michael Clarke is in and off the mark with a single at the first time of asking. Watson takes one of his own, but that over belonged to Swann.
AUS 103-4WICKET! Watson (18) c Pietersen b Bresnan
AUS 103-4Another Australian wicket falls and Watson is gone for 18. I'm not quite sure what he tried there, but he went to cut a wide one and it goes up in the air and straight down KP's throat at third man.
AUS 105-4Smith gets off the mark after five Swann deliveries with a single into the off side. Clarke follows up with one of his own for two runs from the over - Australia's lead is now 264.
AUS 115-4What a shot that is! Australia look to turn up the pace to Bresnan and Smith finishes an expensive over with a quite brilliant six right down the ground. There were also four single from that over, two apiece.
AUS 118-4Bizarre delivery from Swann. He pitches it in at bouncer length but Clarke cannot take advantage and pulls for just one. They run well from a Smith tuck, however, to turn one into a quick two. There's an appeal for a catch as Cook comes in from slip to take it, but it was off the shoulder, not the bat.
AUS 121-4Jimmy Anderson comes back into the attack, and it's good, tight bowling as he gives up just three runs.
AUS 131-4Clarke is almost caught out early in the next over by Swann, but recovers to clip the second ball into the leg side for two. Smith comes down the track and again makes excellent contact with a six just leg side of centre. The lead is 290.
AUS 133-5It's a dreadful mix up. Clarke does not want Smith to come back for the second and sends his partner back. Prior's throw to Anderson is not good, but there's enough time for the bowler to whip the bails off for wicket number five.
AUS 137-5RAIN STOPS PLAY: Clarke pulls nicely for four, but then the rain arrives. Well it had been forecast, but it's disappointing nonetheless with this Test really well poised.
3.37pmTEA: Hopefully this shower will not last long, but either way it's tea, so we will return just before 4pm for an update. Until then!
3.50pmWelcome back. The players are coming back out after tea. That means the covers are off and the rain has stopped for now. Let's hope it stays away for the next two hours and a bit.
AUS 138-5Anderson comes in after the break and after a Clarke single pins the new man Brad Haddin to his crease. The final delivery of the over sees the ball miss the edge by just a centimetre or two - good bowling.
AUS 145-5Four singles and three for Haddin come from Swann's next over, as Australia look to add some quick runs to presumably declare before the end of the day. England are warned about possible time-wasting. They aren't flying through their overs, certainly.
AUS 152-6Clarke gets three runs with a shot slightly in the air on the off side. If he'd timed it perfectly it would have been four, but he settled for three. Haddin is quickly on to a short ball and pulls it hard to the boundary for a fine four. However, the very next ball he goes for a six and it's up in the air and into the hands of Broad. The lead is 311.
AUS 156-6Swann is finding some turn, which troubles the new batsman Mitchell Starc. However, he gets off strike with a leading edge to the leg side for two. He finishes with a single, which makes four runs from Swann's over.
AUS 162-6There's a beer snake in the crowd that is surely pushing world record proportions. Fantastic effort from the Old Trafford fans. On the pitch, Australia are keeping the score ticking over with doubles and singles, with six in total from the over.
AUS 171-6England waste another review. There is a noise as Swann's delivery goes down leg side, but the impact was on the top of the pad and it can't be LBW either as it is missing the stumps. Clarke survives and gets off strike, which allows Starc to get down on one knee to semi-sweep through mid-wicket for four.
AUS 172-7England are taking a long time between overs and even between deliveries. There's a full minute between Anderson's first and second deliveries after a few field changes. Then Starc decides to chop at one, but succeeds in bottom edging straight to Swann. Ryan Harris survives the final three of the over.
AUS 172-7BAD LIGHT STOPPED PLAY: Off the players come again. Despite a discussion with Clarke, the umpires decide that there is not enough light to continue. Clarke is arguing his case, but it's no use.
4.30pmThis, to be honest, is the worst of cricket. Yes, the reading is 8.9, which is enough to take them off, but the lights are on and a little bit of common sense should prevail.
4.35pmMight this delay force Clarke's hand into a declaration? Back to the decision though, the ones who are most in danger are surely the batsmen. If they want to continue, then I say let them! Of course, the umpires offering light is no longer allowed, but there you go.
4.40pmThe umpires are still out in the middle regularly checking the light. England will be delighted with the decision, as they had already begun to play the clock.
4.48pmOne of the umpires, Tony Hill, has spoken to Sky Sports News regarding the decision: "When we start losing the light completely at square leg, we give the captain an option to use spin. He [Cook] didn't want to do that."
"We want to see an improvement in the light before play can start again. At the moment they've gone down significantly."
4.55pmSo all in all, that does not look too promising. Cook was offered the chance to bowl spin from both ends but, trying to get a draw as he is, said no. It left the umpires with no choice but to take the players off. If Clarke does not declare here I will be shocked.
5pmI'm sure Cook was already only looking for the draw, but this delay will ensure that England do not go for the win. Yes, the 10-0 would be on offer with a win here, but if they go the win and end up losing there is a slight chance that this first series can still go the Australians' way.
5.04pmWEATHER UPDATE: The news gets worse from Old Trafford. It's now raining and the covers are on. It's looking less likely that there will be much, if any, more play today and you'd be a fool to bet against a draw looking at the forecast for tomorrow.
5.05pmWith that, I'm going to take a short break. I'll be back with hopefully some better news. So do stay tuned.
5.20pmHello again. There is no change. In fact if anything the rain has got harder. I can't see any more play today unfortunately, which just makes the likelihood of no result here very high indeed.
5.25pmThe draw, of course, would mean that England, being the holders, would retain the Ashes. It's probably not quite how they would like it, but after the mammoth Australian innings here they were always playing catch-up in this Test. The onus remains on Australia to win, so they'll have to have a go at England tomorrow to stand a chance.
5.30pmSo what has happened so far today? A Stuart Broad cameo helped England to 368 this morning, taking them past the follow-on target. In response England bowled well to take seven Australian wickets to leave the visitors 331 ahead. The umpires pulled the players off for bad light, but 10 minutes later the heavens opened and it looks unlikely for any more play.
5.37pmThere are puddles on the outfield, the covers are still on and there is not much time left in the day as it is. Expect an official abandonment before too long...
5.40pmPLAY ABANDONED FOR THE DAY: It's official. There will be no more play on day four of the third Ashes Test.
5.41pmSo after 12 glorious sunny days of Ashes cricket, day 13 ends damply. Australia's hopes of taking a win are surely ended now, with a draw incredibly likely.
5.42pmRemember, if it is a draw it will mean that England retain the Ashes. With the forecast for tomorrow even worse, that is a very safe bet indeed.
5.42pmThat's all from us at Sports Mole today. Thanks for being here for what was initially another fine day of Test cricket. We're back tomorrow for the conclusion, so keep your fingers crossed the weather changes its mind. Bye for now.