Play abandoned as England's hopes fade in rainy Melbourne

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Rain dampened the MCG and England's spirits as the wet weather forced play to be abandoned on day four of the fourth Ashes Test in Melbourne.

Following much deliberation between the umpires and ground staff on a soggy MCG, play was officially washed out after 17:00 local time on Friday with the covers firmly in place.

A subdued David Warner (40 not out) and captain Steve Smith (25 not out) will return for the final day on Saturday with Australia 103-2 at stumps and still 61 runs adrift of England, who were on track to make some significant inroads in their quest to hit back after the hosts reclaimed the Ashes in Perth before rain wreaked havoc.

After an England innings inspired by Alastair Cook's record-breaking unbeaten 244 was brought to an end to leave them 491 all out - a lead of 164 - early on Friday, Chris Woakes (1-24) and James Anderson (1-20) claimed the wickets of struggling pair Cameron Bancroft (27) and Usman Khawaja (11) prior to lunch.

However, mother nature halted England with two rain delays and the third stoppage, which forced tea to be called early - washing out proceedings prematurely to the disappointment of the vocal Barmy Army, who had watched Cook make history.

The England opener became the first player to carry their bat in a Test at the MCG with his sublime innings.

Australia got the remaining wicket with the first ball of the day, Anderson the man to go for a duck - Cook not out at the non-strikers' end as he walked off the ground to a standing ovation.

His tally was the highest score by someone who carried their bat - an opening batsman unbeaten at the end of an innings when all 10 wickets have fallen - in a Test, surpassing the 223 set by New Zealand's Glenn Turner against West Indies in 1972.

Cook also became the first England player to carry their bat against Australia in 38 years, and the first England player to do so against any opposition since Michael Atherton's effort versus New Zealand in 1997.