Siddle strikes to cement Australia's control
England 52 for 2 (Cook 36*, Trott 2*, Siddle 2-7) trail Australia 527 for 7 declared (Clarke 187, Smith 89, Rogers 84, Starc 66*, Haddin 65*, Swann 5-159) by 475 runs
Live scorecard and ball-by-ball details
So far, the Old Trafford Test is being played is if in a time capsule. Australia are ascendant, batting boldly and bowling with discipline and menace. England are constrained, left to toil in the field for hours before taking up a grim occupation of the crease with a draw quickly looming as their favoured outcome.
The results of the first two Tests of this Ashes series dictate that a stalemate is all the hosts require to keep the urn, but by stumps on day two they found themselves 52 for 2 in reply to 527 for 7 declared - the sort of hole once faced with regularity by preceding generations.
For a team who had lost six consecutive Test matches leading into this one, Australia have made a remarkably good fist of driving the game. The captain Michael Clarke soared to 187 before Brad Haddin and Mitchell Starc stretched England's resources with an impudent stand that stretched 15 minutes past tea.
Once Clarke closed the innings, Nathan Lyon produced an energetic first spin spell of the series before Peter Siddle took advantage of England's defensive mindset by winkling out Joe Root and the nightwatchman Tim Bresnan, who appeared to defer to the batting class system in declining to review a caught behind decision by Marais Erasmus that appeared mistaken. Specialist batsman or not, it is one wicket less for Australia to claim over the remaining three days.
England's predicament was largely down to Clarke, who compiled both his most substantial innings against England and his highest Test tally overseas. Steve Smith provided sturdy support until he threw his hand away on 89. Clarke's exit had granted Stuart Broad a long-delayed 200th wicket in Tests, but Haddin and Starc followed up with near impunity on another sun-drenched afternoon.
Root and his captain Alastair Cook walked out with stodgy intentions that became quickly apparent. Starc swung the new ball but it was the introduction of Lyon that caused the most trouble, also leaving many to wonder how he had been omitted for Ashton Agar earlier in the series. In his first over Cook snicked a sharp off break that rebounded off Haddin's pad, but a wrong-footed Clarke was unable to propel himself forward to take it. Lyon finished the day wicketless, but his loop and spin had created considerable doubt in English minds.
Siddle's entry to the attack was delayed while Ryan Harris and Shane Watson were tried, but he quickly made an impact, moving one away from wide on the crease to confound Root and then coaxing a false stroke - if perhaps not an edge - from Bresnan. In the day's final over Jonathan Trott edged fractionally short of the slips, leaving plenty of positive thoughts in Australian minds.
Early morning showers had given way to blue skies by the time the teams walked to the middle, Clarke and Smith seeming to set themselves for a long stay as they negotiated the second new ball. Milestones came and went, the highest fourth wicket stand in an Old Trafford Test then the 200 partnership, leaving Cook looking somewhat bereft of ideas.
He resorted to Graeme Swann's offspin soon after mid-morning drinks, and the temptation of the slower, spinning ball proved too much for Smith, who aimed a heave towards midwicket but managed only to send a skier into the hands of Jonny Bairstow. This was profligate by Smith, who had shown so much patience to this point, but England will argue that it was in fact the fourth time in the innings they had dismissed him.
David Warner thus walked to the wicket with Australia in decent fettle, accompanied by the inevitable boos following his earlier attack on Root in Birmingham during the Champions Trophy. Clarke was by this time in flowing form, treating Tim Bresnan in particular with rare disdain as he crested 150. But Warner's was a brief and skittish stay, one firm push to the cover boundary undone when he snicked Swann's offbreak to slip via Matt Prior's pad.
Unable to tell he had hit the ball having simultaneously thudded bat against pad, Warner sought advice from Clarke, who surprisingly assented to the review. Replays revealed the thickness of the edge, sending Warner off to even louder departing boos than those to have greeted him. On the Old Trafford balcony, the rest of Australia's players and coaches were less than enchanted with events.
Haddin watched all this then marched to the middle, quickly reasserting his side's strong position with a trio of lofted boundaries that conveyed both the true nature of the pitch and Australian desire to mount their tally in a timely fashion. Like Clarke to Swann at short cover earlier in the session, Haddin did offer one exceptionally difficult chance with an inside edge through to Prior, but the catch went down as England pondered how many they might be chasing.
Ultimately Clarke fell into a pattern of running singles down to third man, and in attempting to do this to a Broad delivery that cut back he succeeded only in nudging the ball onto the stumps. Siddle had a lusty swing at Swann and missed, but Starc had rather more success as Haddin accumulated ably.
Nine boundaries were coshed from the bat of Starc, and his stand with Haddin was worth a rapidfire 77 by the time the bails were tipped off for tea. It had become 97 by the time Clarke gestured his men in, leaving England with a vexing task ahead to ensure the retention of the Ashes.
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here