Centuries to Steve Smith and Matthew Wade put Australia in a commanding position at stumps on day four of the first Ashes Test at Edgbaston.
Smith became just the fifth Australian to score a century in both innings of an Ashes Test, joining a list containing Warren Bardsley, Arthur Morris, Steve Waugh and Matthew Hayden with a masterful 142.
Wade also starred in Australia’s innings, making 110 as the tourists eventually declared at 7-487, setting England a huge victory target of 398 to win the series opener.
England survived unscathed in seven overs before stumps, 0-13 at the close of play.
Nathan Lyon gave England opener Jason Roy multiple scares, though, and the spinner is crucial to Australia’s hopes of winning the Test.
A slow pitch flattened right out on day four, making life far easier for batsmen against the quicks but the Edgbaston surface is now providing major encouragement for spin bowlers.
Excellent batting has essentially put Australia in the position where they can only win or draw the Test, with the chances of the hosts scoring a further 385 runs on the final day looking extremely unlikely.
England’s approach to the chase will be intriguing but Australia’s is clear and obvious. Give the ball to Lyon.
“There’s a bit of variable bounce, the quicks hitting the stumps and ‘Gazza’ [Lyon] doing his thing from one end, quicks rotated from the other,” Smith told Sky Sports about Australia’s likely plan.
The batsman’s brilliance was a feature of day four and England seemed genuinely at a loss as to where to bowl to him.
This century was quicker and more fluent than his day one effort and no less important to the cause as Australia built a huge lead.
“I’ve never scored hundreds in both innings before, even in first-class cricket,” he added.
“Been here and played a lot of cricket before, my 65th Test, but it was a different feeling.
“It was about grinding it out this morning and I had a few really good partnerships with [Travis] Head and Wade.
“Friends and family got me through a difficult stage of life … there was a time when I didn’t know if I wanted to do it again … I didn’t know if I had it in me.
“Now that I’m back playing and enjoying what I’m doing, it’s an honour to wear this cap and I’m grateful.”
Head was the only batsman to be dismissed in the first session, falling for 51 after edging a wide delivery off Ben Stokes (3-85).
If Smith and Head’s 130-run partnership laid the platform, Smith and Wade’s 126-run union put Australia in control.
Another umpire howler could have ended Wade’s stay but he was quick to review a Joel Wilson lbw decision that was miles off being right.
Smith soon brought up his 25th Test century with a four through the covers and Australia’s batting was so dominant the normally lively Birmingham crowd went very silent.
Smith eventually departed, caught behind off Woakes, but Wade picked up the slack as he raced to his third Test century.
Wade soon holed out off Stokes but the runs continued to come at a quick rate, Tim Paine (34), James Pattinson (47 not out) and Pat Cummins (26 not out) all swinging hard against a wounded England attack.
Much of the last hour focused on when Paine would declare and he gave his side seven overs at England.
And while no wickets were to fall, Lyon will be more than pleased with the early turn on offer ahead of an intriguing final day.