England face another two days of hard graft if they are to retain the Ashes in Manchester this week despite Kevin Pietersen’s 23rd Test century.
Pietersen has been largely absent with the bat so far this series but saved his best for an innings of 113 that was the backbone of England’s 294 for seven at the close on day three of the third Test at Emirates Old Trafford on Saturday.
That still represented a deficit of 233 runs and, more importantly, 34 runs shy of a follow-on target that appears Australia’s best hope of pressing for a victory they must achieve in order to keep alive their Ashes hopes.
Pietersen ensured they were made to toil manfully for the most part of Saturday in that pursuit - Australia managed just five wickets - as he hit his first Test century at this venue.
The right-hander was given a life on 65 when Australia failed to review an lbw call that would have been given out, before bringing up three figures with an uppercut over point that bounced once before finding the ropes.
But when the 33-year-old fell in the final hour lbw to Mitchell Starc (three for 75), England’s lower order were still left with the important task of avoiding the follow-on.
Australia: 527-7 dec;
England 1st Innings (overnight: 52-2)
A Cook c Haddin b Starc 62
J Root c Haddin b Siddle 8
T Bresnan c Haddin b Siddle 1
J Trott c Clarke b Harris 5
K Pietersen lbw b Starc 113
I Bell b Harris 60
J Bairstow c Watson b Starc 22
M Prior not out 6
S Broad not out 9
Extras (7lb, 1nb) 8
Total (7 wkts, 120 overs, 519 mins) 294
Fall of wickets:
Starc 26-5-75-3 (1nb)