Ground staff use blowers to dry out the pitch at the WACA Ground on day five of the third Ashes Test. Photo: EPA/RICHARD WAINWRIGHT

PERTH - Lunch was called early without a ball being bowled on the final day of the rain-hit third Ashes Test in Perth on Monday.

Showers and overnight water damage to the pitch prevented any play in the first session, raising England's hopes of remaining alive in the series.

Australia need just six more wickets to reclaim the Ashes.

A draw would mean England can still retain the Ashes with wins in the last two Tests in Melbourne and Sydney.

England were 132 for four, trailing by 127 runs with Dawid Malan on 28 and Jonny Bairstow on 14.

Strong winds and heavy showers lashed Perth on Sunday night and continued on Monday morning, but the main concern was a damp patch just outside the popping crease at the southern end of the ground.

The reason for the damage was unclear, although there was speculation it might have been linked to strong winds lifting the covers.

As intermittent showers passed through, and the covers came on and off regularly, WACA ground staff worked feverishly with leaf blowers to try to dry the problem area.

England coach Trevor Bayliss described the pitch as "dangerous" and umpires would not allow the game to resume until it was in the same condition as when play finished on the fourth day.

"There has been leakage under the covers overnight," umpires Chris Gaffaney said early in the day. "It's really soft at the moment. It's just a wait and see process.

"The pitch has to be the same for both sides but, at the moment, we feel the pitch has been altered overnight."

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