MANCHESTER – Australia took a giant step towards retaining the Ashes in the fourth test at Old Trafford on Saturday after they left England needing 365 runs to win with eight wickets remaining heading into the final day.
After declaring their second innings on 186-6, with a lead of 382, Australia heaped the pressure on England as Pat Cummins took two wickets in two balls to leave Joe Root's side reeling, before the hosts regained some composure to reach 18-2 at the close.
Victory for Australia, who bowled England out for 301 early in the day, would ensure they retain the urn, taking a 2-1 series lead into the final test at The Oval next week.
Although England's astounding comeback win at Headingley will give them some hope, the winning target looks well out of reach for the hosts who must hope they can somehow bat through the day to foil the tourists.
Australia had half an hour at the end of the day to attack England's top order and paceman Cummins had instant success.
WATCH: Highlights from Day 4 of the fourth @Specsavers Test at Old Trafford
Marcus Harris was also leg before to Broad, failing with his review attempt, and when Marnus Labuschagne was trapped in front by Archer, Australia were wobbling at 24-3.
There was no debate about Travis Head's departure, as Archer sent his middle stump flying and Australia headed into tea with Steve Smith on 14 and Matthew Wade on eight.
But, once again, first innings double centurion Smith took charge and England could find no way past him.
Wade made 34 in support and then skipper Paine added 23, while Smith made his way to his ninth straight test half-century against England.
He was within sight of becoming the first batsman to score a double century and a ton in an Ashes encounter and only the eighth to do so in any test match, but he mis-timed a big shot off spinner Jack Leach, which was pocketed by Ben Stokes in the deep, to depart for 82.
Earlier England narrowly avoided the follow-on after they were bowled out for 301, leaving Australia with an imposing lead.
Another action-packed day of #Ashes cricket! Steve Smith posted 82 before Pat Cummins struck twice to leave our Aussies needing eight wickets to retain the urn on day five. pic.twitter.com/TOtwu6CR0s