Manchester’s fickle weather may have delayed the start of the day three of the fourth Test, but once play started Australia continued to press for an Ashes series victory.
The covers were in place throughout Friday morning, but resuming at 1-23, chasing Australia’s 497, England were immediately on the back foot when night watchman Craig Overton fell to Josh Hazlewood, caught by Steve Smith, for 5.
The runs started to flow thereafter, with Rory Burns on 33 and Joe Root on 19 and England on 2-68 after 27 overs.
Further rain is forecast throughout the day after Australia declared at 8-497 on day two where Steve Smith’s superb knock of 211 put his team in the box seat to push for a 2-1 series lead.
If Australia win, Tim Paine’s side will become the first touring team to retain the urn in England since Steve Waugh’s men in 2001.
All of the talk leading up to the decisive clash was how Smith would handle mental demons and a short-pitched salvo in his Test return from concussion.
As the maestro manipulated the field in yet another masterclass that lasted almost 8-1/2 hours, chatter quickly returned to comparisons between Smith and Don Bradman plus a stack of remarkable statistics.
The world’s top-ranked batsman, wearing a StemGuard for the first time in a match after being struck on the neck by Jofra Archer at Lord’s, blunted England’s attack as Archer recorded figures of 0-97 from 27 overs
Smith, who benefited from a dropped catch and costly no-ball, was thrilled England peppered him with bumpers.
“To go as short as they did, and as early as they did with the new ball, (it) softened that ball up and played into our hands,” Smith said.
“If they bowl a lot at my head then they’re not bowling at my stumps and trying to get me out lbw and caught behind.
“When Stuart Broad came on with the new ball, he bowled some really nice lengths and beat my bat … I got an inside edge.
“He was quite challenging when he hit that length.”
Smith was out edging to Jack Leach on 118, only for replays to reveal the left-arm spinner overstepped.
“I was a bit angry with that shot,” the former captain said.
“You always need some luck when you score big runs.
“I lost a bit of concentration for around 20 minutes or so … after I got caught off the no-ball I switched myself back on.”