Can Australia effect a turnaround in the Ashes?
Michael Clarke fell 13 runs short of a fifth Test double-century but still gave Australia the opportunity to pile the pressure on England at Emirates Old Trafford.
Clarke’s seven-hour tour de force underpinned the tourists’ 527 for seven declared on Day Two of the third Test, as Australia bid to fight back from 2-0 down to somehow try to stop their hosts winning the Ashes again.
England were 52-2 at stumps on Day Two.
It was Stuart Broad who eventually saw off Clarke, a notable scalp for the seamer’s 200th Test wicket — with a short ball which nipped into the gloves and was deflected down on to the stumps.
But the success of Graeme Swann (five for 159) was the most obvious hint that Clarke’s 314-ball stay, featuring 23 boundaries, might have given his own off-spinner Nathan Lyon an outside chance of helping to bowl England out twice here to keep the series alive after all.
The Australia captain batted seamlessly again yesterday morning, his third session of occupation as he and Steve Smith (89) extended their record stand to 214 runs.
Then either side of tea, Brad Haddin (65 not out) and Mitchell Starc (66 not out) upped the ante with another 97 together in under 20 overs before the declaration came - leaving England 32 more to bat this evening.
In sunny conditions at the outset, Clarke needed almost half an hour - and 15 balls - to add to his overnight 125.
He did so with an edge, at catchable height, for four between slips and gully off James Anderson but then immediately added a much more convincing second boundary from the next delivery - forced off the back foot just in front of point.
Brad Haddin was dropped shortly before lunch, on 10 out of 380 for five, when he got an under-edge on an attempted pull at Anderson and Prior could not take the chance diving low to his left.