(CNN) -- England retained cricket's fabled Ashes Monday but their captain Alastair Cook admitted what should have been a day of triumph turned out to be an "anti-climax" after the infamous Manchester weather intervened.
Cook's side were facing defeat in the third Test at Old Trafford, reduced to 37 for three wickets chasing an improbable 332 for victory, when rain brought play to a premature end just after lunch on the final day.
With the holders already leading the best of five series 2-0, it meant Australia can, at best, level it up even if they win the remaining two Test matches at Durham and The Oval in London.
In the event of a tied series, the team that last won the Ashes retains them and England won 3-1 in Australia in the 2010/11 season.
Frustrated by the bad light call by the umpires which brought Sunday's fourth day of five to a premature end, Australia skipper Michael Clarke declared on their overnight second innings score of 172 for seven wickets.
But as the rain came in, only 20.3 overs were possible Monday, enough time for Australia's pace attack to take three of the ten wickets needed for victory.
Ryan Harris dismissed Cook and Jonathan Trott in quick succession before Peter Siddle claimed Kevin Pietersen, who scored a century in his side's first innings.
Of minor consolation to the Australians is that the drawn Test ended a run of six straight defeats at this level, their worst for 29 years and Clarke was full of praise for his team after earlier setbacks.
"I don't want to take anything away from England. They deserved to be 2-0 up," he said.
"That's the chance you take when you are 2-0 down in the UK, there can be a bit of rain about. The guys have worked their backsides off here."
Clarke, who scored a magnificent century as Australia piled up the runs in their first innings, was named man of the match but it was a minor consolation.
"It's nice to make runs but the result is more important, he added
His English counterpart was also left feeling flat as he is team achieved their objective while sitting in the pavilion watching the steady drizzle.
"It's a great feeling, a strange feeling; it was a bit of an anti-climax today," Cook admitted..
"We've retained the Ashes and now we want to go and win them. If you'd said that after three Tests I'd have snapped your hand off to be in this position."
England will look to increase their advantage in the fourth and fifth Tests, while for Australia there is an early opportunity to win back the famous urn in a home series against their arch rivals which starts in Brisbane in November.
For now, Clarke wants his team to restore pride by building on their fine performance at Old Trafford.
"It's important we concentrate on the two Tests here.
"It would be a great achievement if we leave England 2-2 -- our goal is to try to level the series."