MANCHESTER   -    Steve Smith’s relentless double century demoralised England and put Australia in prime position to retain the Ashes after two days of the fourth Test at Old Trafford. Smith remorselessly worked his way to 211 - taking advantage of being dropped by Jofra Archer on 65 and dismissed off a Jack Leach no-ball on 118 - to lead the tourists to 497-8 declared. His third century of the series took his tally of runs to 584 and average to 194.66, all despite having missed the third Test because of concussion.

Even with the brilliance of Smith, England may have had the chance to chip away at the other end had Australia captain Tim Paine not been dropped twice in his 58. Instead, their tired attack was flogged by Mitchell Starc’s 54 not out as the tourists, who at various points could have been 246-6 or 273-6, surged towards a declaration.

England were given a difficult 10 overs to bat and lost Joe Denly to Matthew Wade’s superb reaction catch at short leg to close on 23-1. Rory Burns has 15 and nightwatchman Craig Overton three. All is not lost for the home side - the placid pitch should provide no obstacles as they bid to bat well into Saturday in order to get close to the Australia total.

However, because Australia have such a large score on the board, any sort of England collapse could see the Ashes secured with a Test to spare.