England slithered away from a filthy Manchester night with a chance of squaring the three-match Twenty20 series against South Africa after being saved by the rain.
They were well behind the asking rate in a game that had been reduced to a nine-over knockabout after persistent drizzle delayed the start until 8.45pm. But then the rain that had been falling throughout England's brief innings intensified after Luke Wright was dismissed from the first ball of the fifth over and, with only five balls remaining until the result would have stood, the umpires Rob Bailey and Richard Illingworth called the hard-pressed groundstaff to pull out the covers for the umpteenth time.
So Wednesday night's match at Edgbaston remains live and both teams will hope that the forecast of more rain for the Midlands does not deny them a last chance to prepare for the World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka.
The most significant developments of the evening both came before the match started. First it emerged that the England selectors will meet in Manchester on Tuesday to finalise the squad for the four-Test tour of India – apparently ending any slim hopes that Kevin Pietersen might still have been harbouring of a recall.
Then England's captain, Stuart Broad, handed in a team sheet showing one change from Saturday's defeat in the opening match of this series, with Wright replacing the horribly out-of-form Ravi Bopara.
For the next two hours Wright was confined with Bopara to the impressive new building opposite the old pavilion that now offers excellent facilities to the players and the media, as the overdue redevelopment of Old Trafford as an international-standard ground finally nears completion.
Lancashire had sold more than 12,000 tickets for this game, an impressive effort for a Monday night in September, and are already offering special packages for the return of Test cricket to Old Trafford during next summer's Ashes series – by which time the pavilion itself will have been redeveloped. Most of the optimists who had turned up were realistic enough to have brought a brolly and many must have feared a complete washout.
So it was an unexpected bonus when the rain relented and play began, and the crowd roared heartily as Steve Finn had Richard Levi gloving down the leg side with the first ball of South Africa's innings, then AB De Villiers skying to mid-on.
Graeme Swann conceded only 11 runs from the fourth and sixth overs combined and took a spectacular one-handed return catch to dismiss JP Duminy – the ball after Eoin Morgan had dropped a steepler to offer Hashim Amla yet another of the lives they have been granting him in all forms of cricket for much of the summer.
Amla batted through the South Africa innings to end unbeaten on 47 from 30 balls and finally found some support from a familiar ally batting in an unfamiliar position, Jacques Kallis having dropped down the order to No 7 presumably because he was regarded as too orthodox.
But England would have been better off with Mike Atherton than Craig Kieswetter when they launched their reply, the Somerset wicketkeeper slogging and missing at four rapid balls from Morne Morkel, and falling to another brilliant catch by Robin Peterson in the second over from Dale Steyn for a single that took up six deliveries.
Alex Hales fluked a six over the slips off Steyn but there was no doubting that England were the happier team when the umpires called the whole thing off.
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