MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — David Warner blew his chance of making back-to-back hundreds after posting the slowest half-century of his career as Australia battled to save the fourth Ashes test against England at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Saturday.
With no real prospect of winning the match, Warner and Australia captain Steve Smith abandoned their normal attacking game by batting with extreme caution during the extended morning session to reach 178 for four in their second innings at lunch.
That left Australia with an overall lead of just 14 runs after they trailed England by 164 on the first innings and needing to bat throughout most of the last day to salvage a draw.
Warner made 86, but missed a golden opportunity to score a century in each innings after falling to England skipper Joe Root, who celebrated his 27th birthday with a rare wicket.
Smith followed up his 76 from the first innings to post his second fifty of the match, reaching 50 not out, but lost Shaun Marsh for four on the last ball before lunch when he edged Stuart Broad and Jonny Bairstow took a one-handed diving catch behind the stumps.
Resuming on 40 with Australia on 103-2 and needing a further 61 runs to get past England, Warner crawled to his half-century off 161 balls in almost four hours - easily his slowest 50 in test cricket.
The left-hander picked up his scoring rate in the second hour of the day before mistiming an attempted drive off Root that went straight up in the air and was caught by James Vince at cover, giving the part-time English spinner just his 17th test wicket.
Smith brought up his 50 off 151 deliveries, just two short of his slowest half-ton, after a chanceless innings to boost Australia's hopes of forcing a draw after winning the first three tests of the five-match series to clinch the Ashes.
The match was briefly interrupted by a passing rain shower after the fourth day had been abandoned early because of foul weather, prompting an early start on Saturday.
Officials have said that a minimum of 98 overs could be bowled on the last day but with more storms forecast for later in the day, a draw looms as the most likely result.