Steve Smith’s incredible run of form continued on day two of the fourth Ashes Test as the world’s No.1 batsman hit a typically brilliant 211 in Manchester.
From 5-224, Australia declared on 8-497 after a superb 145-run partnership – the highest of the series – between Smith and captain Tim Paine (58) swung the Old Trafford Test in favour of the tourists.
Late hitting from Mitchell Starc, who walloped seven fours and two sixes in a 58-ball unbeaten 54, pushed Australia to a huge first-innings total.
And there was still time for Australia to take a wicket, Pat Cummins dismissing Joe Denly for four as England reached stumps at 1-23.
Fielding at short leg, Matthew Wade needed two bites of the cherry to catch Denly and the late wicket capped off a sensational day for Australia ahead of what is likely to be a weather-affected day three.
Making the third double century of Smith’s career so galling for the hosts was the two times he should have been dismissed.
Smith, who resumed on 60 not out, was dropped on 65 by the ineffectual Jofra Archer (0-97) in his follow through.
England then thought they had dismissed Smith on 118 when he edged spinner Jack Leach (2-83) to Ben Stokes at first slip.
But just as Smith was trudging off, replays showed Leach had overstepped and bowled a no-ball, giving the star batsman another reprieve.
Incredibly, Smith is now the highest run scorer in Test cricket in 2019 despite not playing in the first seven months of the year.
In just four innings in this Ashes series, he has now scored 144, 142, 92 and 211, and England, again, looked at a loss at times in its bid to dismiss Smith.
Joe Root’s men did make a bright start to the day and Smith was beaten by Stuart Broad (3-97) with the second ball of play.
It was not to be a sign of what was to come, though, with Archer’s failure to take a return catch proving crucial.
Travis Head did not last long, though, trapped lbw by Broad for 19 in the fifth over of the day.
Wade (16) failed to convert something of a start, too, when he skied a catch to Root after dancing down the wicket to Leach.
It was a poor shot and livened up the home crowd as Paine walked to the wicket.
The pressure was on the skipper in the aftermath of the Headingley debacle for both his captaincy and his lack of form with the bat, given he had made just 77 runs in the first three Tests.
But even though he had some luck, Paine deserves great credit for sticking with Smith during a vital period of the Test.
He was there to see Smith reach 100, a milestone reached with a clip off the pads for two off Craig Overton (2-85), and after Paine got a life from Jason Roy in the slips cordon in the first over after lunch, he got to work.
The second session was one-way traffic, Australia scoring 124 runs without loss as the hosts lost their way.
Leach caused Smith some brief problems but after the no-ball dismissal, the latter was his usual mix of brilliance and eccentricity, surging past 150.
Paine played some excellent strokes, too, and when Stokes walked off with a shoulder problem, England looked bereft of ideas.
Root’s mood was not improved by substitute fielder Sam Curran dropping a chance to dismiss Paine on 49 but the Australia wicket-keeper did fall from the first ball of the final session for 58.
Pat Cummins (4) came and went quickly but Starc provided Smith with the support he needed to reach 200.
With the aggression levels ramped right up, Starc took Broad for four successive fours but in the hunt for quick runs, Smith’s stay was finally ended by the part-time spin of Root, when he picked out Denly with a reverse sweep.
Starc and Nathan Lyon (26 not out) then hammered 59 runs from 8.1 overs before the declaration gave Australia a late chance to attack.