NO play was possible after tea on the third day at Old Trafford as the County Championship clash between Division One leaders Essex and second-placed Lancashire heads towards a draw.

Lancashire resumed day three on 222-8 in their first innings, with Haseeb Hameed unbeaten on 85 having batted all day on Wednesday to post his highest Championship score of the season.

He would add just three runs to his overnight score, receiving a near-unplayable delivery from Jamie Porter which kept low and trapped him plumb lbw. That was a fifth wicket for Porter – his fifth five-wicket haul of the season.

Essex secured their maximum bowling points with that scalp and Lancashire were still 17 short of their second batting point.

But the last-wicket pair of Tom Bailey and Kyle Jarvis took them beyond the required 250 mark and looked like taking Lancashire to 300 and a third batting point as they shared a half-century stand from just 49 balls.

It was a partnership which was ended by Simon Harmer, who bowled Jarvis one ball after the Zimbabwean had launched him down the ground for six. Jarvis made 26 and Bailey was unbeaten on 34 and the pair took Lancashire to a total of 290.

The last three wickets for Lancashire had contributed exactly half of the total as the Red Rose recovered from 92-6 on day two.

Having been frustrated by Lancashire’s fightback, Essex needed to avoid losing early wickets but they were unable to do so.

Ryan McLaren struck twice before lunch, taking 2-12 from his eight-over spell by bowling Nick Browne for six and having Dan Lawrence caught at third slip by Dane Vilas for 12.

Essex scrambled to 38-2 at lunch and a fifty-partnership between skipper Varun Chopra and Ravi Bopara after the interval ensured Essex’s fears of being bowled out quickly were put to rest.

Their half-century stand came from 91 balls and Lancashire were struggling to make the inroads they so wanted.

But Tom Bailey stuck to his task, first being frustrated when Alex Davies at second slip dropped Bopara on 18 but bouncing back in his next over to trap Chopra lbw for 40 with one that tailed back at the right-hander.

Light was an issue for the umpires, who instructed Lancashire to bowl spin shortly before tea, a move which brought reward for the hosts as Stephen Parry produced a beauty to have Bopara caught by Liam Livingstone at slip for 34 with the final ball before tea.

That left Essex 115-4 and was to prove the final action of the third day as rain arrived during tea and wiped out the final session.

After the complete washout on day one, this clash between the top two in Division One looks almost certain to end in a draw. Both sides currently have three points from the match, meaning Essex still hold a 36-point lead at the top of the table.