Only the weather and a potentially defiant England tail now stand between Australia and a third Test victory after an enthralling day’s play at Old Trafford.
The tourists didn’t quite have everything their own way on Saturday, largely thanks to a swashbuckling century from Kevin Pietersen, but the magnitude of England’s task after an Aussie first innings declaration of 527 means that they may now be relying on the rain having reached 294/7 at stumps.
And so, a further 34 runs are required from England’s rags on Sunday morning just to avoid the follow on – a situation which would give Australia a major chance of closing out the test regardless of the threatening Manchester skies.
After two days of one way traffic, it seemed as if the third day would follow suit early in the morning as Jonathan Trott was dismissed on the cheap by Ryan Harris to leave England reeling on 64/3.
Pietersen’s arrival at the crease got the hosts moving however, and quickly, as his sublime array of shot-making soon got the scoreboard moving towards a stable figure.
Alistair Cook didn’t stick around for too long, losing his wicket to Mitchell Starc for a respectable 62, but Pietersen was to continue his excellent knock alongside Ian Bell who once again contributed well with 60 before being bowled by the tireless Harris.
Two tremendous sixes notched up KP’s century as he lifted his bat to the crowd, knowing that his innings could prove the difference between draw and defeat come the end of the weekend.
13 more runs were added before he was finally dismissed after tea, Starc trapping the South African born star lbw, whilst Jonathan Bairstow also fell victim to the reinstated pace-man for a ropey 22.
Wicketkeeper Matt Prior and Stuart Broad managed to fend off a reinvigorated Aussie attack for the final half hour of the evening session, but they will return on Sunday morning in need of runs to potentially save the Test and ensure that England retain the Ashes urn with two Tests still to play.
It will be fascinating to see if the hosts can do it – and even more intriguing to find out when Aussie skipper Michael Clarke declares for a second time if England do stave the follow-on.