While Australia continue to dictate terms in the Old Trafford Test they will be a touch unhappy they managed to pick up only five English wickets on the third day of the game. We’ll have live scores and commentary from 8.00pm AEST.
Kevin Pietersen’s century threatened to steal the show for England but Mitchell Starc and Ryan Harris kept England at bay on the third day.
And while they picked up only five scalps, England is still 34 runs behind from making Australia bat again and have only three wickets standing.
What makes the situation slightly dicey for England is that their top six batsmen are all back into the pavillion.
Even Tim Bresnan, one of the better number eights in the world today, is out and it’s down to Matt Prior and Stuart Broad to first steer England to the safety of avoiding the follow-on and then push them closer to a draw.
There’s a possible 180 overs still to be bowled but weather could have an impact in this game. There is rain forecast on each of the next two days and if that’s the case, Australia might well be looking at pushing for the follow-on.
The trouble with that is the Australian bowlers have already sent down 120 overs. Expecting them to bowl at full efficiency through another day will be a difficult ask – especially given how injury-prone someone like Ryan Harris usually is.
Assuming England do not save the follow-on, Australia could still look to bat a second time around for a period of around 50-60 overs to try and get their lead up more than 350.
Changes in the batting order once a stable start has been provided by the top three could be in the offing as they will look for at least 110 overs to bowl England out the second time around.
From England’s perspective, strangely enough the situation has made the equation simpler. They need to bat on and on without looking at time.
It needs to begin with the two batsmen at the crease, Matt Prior and Stuart Broad, after which Graeme Swann and James Anderson need to try and continue with it.
So far, Broad’s had a good series with the bat, having scored a total of 122 runs at an average of more than 40.
The trouble has been at Prior’s end, a batsman who averages 43 in Test cricket but one who has lacked consistency in this series so far.
Prior would have seen how his counterpart Brad Haddin has counter-attacked to produce fifties on a couple of occasions when the going has been tough – the second innings at Trent Bridge and the first essay this game – and will hope to have learned a trick or two.
In fact, how he combines the need to survive with his positive stroke-play will make for a fascinating early battle.
So will the Australian batting in their second dig after having regained some of their confidence from the first innings.
Follow the live score and blog of the fourth day’s play of the third Test from 8.00pm AEST. You can join me for this live blog and post your comments below.