Josh Hazlewood took three late wickets to put Australia in a strong position on an attritional and weather-affected day three of the fourth Ashes Test in Manchester.
Play did not begin until 1.30pm (local time) due to rain and Australia was frustrated for the majority of the day by a stoic 141-run partnership between Rory Burns (81) and Joe Root (71).
The pair batted for more than 52 overs before Hazlewood (4-48) finally broke through, Burns caught at second slip by Steve Smith.
Fired up and full of steam, Hazlewood then dismissed Root for the seventh time in Test cricket – more than any other bowler – lbw.
And he bowled Jason Roy (22) in what was the penultimate over of the day with an excellent delivery that nipped back off the seam.
— cricket.com.au (@cricketcomau) September 6, 2019
Bad light forced an early conclusion to play, England 5-200 at stumps, still needing 98 runs to avoid the follow-on after Australia’s brilliant, Smith-inspired first innings total of 8-497 declared.
Tim Paine’s side will also be boosted by the weather forecast, which suggests both day four and day five will not be interrupted by rain.
Australia will need every minute it can get in its bid to take the 15 remaining wickets, given the slow nature of the Old Trafford pitch.
Victory would ensure that Australia retains the Ashes, given it would hold a 2-1 lead with just one Test to play at The Oval later in September.
Hazlewood’s late triple-salvo will have given the tourists a major boost on what loomed as a very frustrating day.
The New South Welshman also struck in his first over of the day, nightwatchman Craig Overton (5) edging the paceman to Smith.
That set up an intriguing battle between Hazlewood and Root, the latter walking to the crease averaging more than 100 in Test cricket at Old Trafford.
Hazlewood could not initially continue his hold over Root, as the England skipper and Burns got to work.
The pair were patient, defending the good balls in the knowledge that the batting-friendly surface would make life easier the longer they stayed at the crease.
And so it proved as Mitchell Starc (0-41) struggled for rhythm, leaving an off-colour Nathan Lyon (0-68) with plenty of bowling to do.
The scoreboard kept ticking over but Pat Cummins (1-37) was unlucky not to be rewarded for an excellent 10-over spell either side of tea that continually tested Burns and Root.
A major chance came with Root on 54 but his edge flew between wicket-keeper Paine and David Warner at first slip with both unmoved.
Cummins then hit Root on the pads and Australia was convinced enough to review the not out decision – a move that proved unsuccessful.
The blow to the knee that Root took from that delivery forced a brief pause to play as Australia rallied for one last push.
And Hazlewood, who bowled superbly all day, produced when it mattered to set up an intriguing fourth day.
England has Headingley hero Ben Stokes at the crease, though, the all-rounder unbeaten on seven, while Jonny Bairstow is on two not out.