MANCHESTER - England were on the cusp of regaining control of the fourth Test against India at Old Trafford when rain forced an early close to Friday's second day. England were 237 for six in reply to India's 152 all out, a lead of 85 runs. Joe Root was 48 not out and Jos Buttler 22 not out, with their unbroken seventh-wicket partnership so far worth 67 runs.

What became heavy rain forced the players from the field at 2:15pm local time (1315GMT). Although the sun later broke through the clouds and and groundstaff appeared to get most of the outfield into a playable state, two large puddles on the boundary near the players' dressing rooms caused the officials concern.

After several inspections, umpires Rod Tucker and Marais Erasmus were still not satisfied with the condition of those areas and play was abandoned for the day at 5:39pm (1639GMT). It was a decision greeted by understandable jeers from spectators who had waited patiently for several hours in the hope of seeing the match re-start. England resumed on 113 for three after bowling out India -- who won the toss -- for just 152 before tea on Thursday, with fast-medium bowler Stuart Broad taking six for 25.

However, India's total in an innings featuring a Test record-equalling six ducks represented something of a recovery after they had been eight for four inside six overs and the tourists were indebted to a battling 71 from captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni. England's Ian Bell was 45 not out, with nightwatchman Chris Jordan yet to score at the start of Friday's play.

India badly needed an early breakthrough and swing bowler Bhuvneshwar Kumar, a thorn in England's side with both bat and ball this series, duly obliged by taking two wickets for one run in eight balls to remove both Bell (58) and Jordan (13). Bell, fresh from his hundred in England's 266-run win at Southampton -- their first victory in 11 Tests -- that levelled the five-match series at 1-1, completed a 63-ball fifty including eight fours and a six.

With conditions as overcast as they had been on Thursday morning, there was plenty of swing movement on offer. But it was Kumar's looping bouncer that did for Jordan as he mistimed a pull and was well caught by Varun Aaron, moving low to his right at midwicket. And 136 for four became 140 for five when Bell, beaten the ball before by Kumar's superb outswinger, was undone by another good length delivery that this time took the edge on its way through to wicketkeeper Dhoni.

Moeen Ali fell for 13 when recalled fast bowler Aaron, from around the wicket, hurried him with a short-pitcher before next ball bowling him with a full-length delivery as the left-hander aimed towards midwicket.

Pankaj Singh had had the misfortune to record the worst wicketless Test debut by any bowler with a match return of none for 179 at Southampton, where he might have taken several wickets. And when rain stopped play in Manchester on Friday, Singh, whose innings figures then stood at none for 79 in 17 overs, could have been forgiven for thinking if he would ever take a Test wicket.




(OVERNIGHT: 113-3):

A Cook c Pankaj b Aaron    17

S Robson b Kumar    6

G Ballance lbw b Aaron    37

I Bell c Dhoni b Kumar    58

C Jordan c Aaron b Kumar    13

J Root not out    48

M Ali b Aaron    13

J Buttler not out    22

EXTRAS: (b5, lb9, w4, nb5)    23

TOTAL: (6 wkts, 71 overs)    237

FOW: 1-21, 2-36, 3-113, 4-136, 5-140, 6-170

BOWLING: Kumar 18-6-47-3; Singh 17-2-79-0; Aaron 16-2-48-3; Ashwin 13-1-28-0; Jadeja 7-0-21-0

TOSS: India

UMPIRES: Rod Tucker (AUS) and Marais Erasmus (RSA)

TV UMPIRE: Richard Kettleborough (ENG)

MATCH REFEREE: Ranjan Madugalle (SRI)