Most costly no-ball ever? Smith makes Poms pay
Stop us if you've heard this before, but Steve Smith has produced an innings of immaculate concentration to bat England out of the second Test with a stunning double century.
Australia posted 8 (dec)-497 in their second innings, with Smith having posted an extraordinary 211 including a vital 145-run partnership with skipper Tim Paine who hit a morale-boosting 58.
England started promisingly with the cheap wickets of Travis Head (19) and Matthew Wade (16) before Smith stole the game - and potentially the Ashes - away from them.
In a spicy final hour, England lost Joe Denly for 4 to be 1-23 at stumps and complete an utterly dominant day for the tourists.
Here's everything you missed overnight from a mammoth day at Old Trafford.
SMITH'S STUNNING ACHIEVEMENT
We could make this entire column about stupidly improbably Steve Smith records, but we'll limit it to just two - starting with this particularly ridiculous one.
Despite being suspended for the first half of the year - and having miss 1.5 Tests in this series with concussion - Steve Smith is still the most prolific run scorer in Test cricket this year.
From just four innings he's smashed 589 runs, taking him past Ben Stokes who has 513 from 12 innings in seven Tests.
Perhaps even more incredibly, his three centuries is also a world-best this year - with Stokes (2) the only other player to have hit more than one century.
SMITH SHAMES ENGLAND
All number of Steve Smith records emerged during his lengthy stay at the crease on Thursday: his 11th Ashes ton moved him to outright third on the all-time list, passing Mark Taylor and Ricky Ponting for Ashes runs etc etc.
There were seemingly endless facts and figures to highlight Smith's dominance.
But one might have stung the opposition more than the others - that Smith has scored more Ashes centuries on English soil than any Englishman.
Stanley Jackson leads the way for England, with five centuries, while Geoffrey Boycott and David Gower both have four each. Smith's effort on Thursday was his sixth in the Old Dart.
Now, remember when England tried to coax a teenage Smith to ditch the Baggy Green dream and chase one with a bluer tinge?
What could've been…
THE MOST COSTLY NO-BALL OF ALL….
Jack Leach has bowled more than 15,000 balls in his first class career, and just 13 of them have been no-balls.
On Thursday he bowled the first of his Test career, and it will surely be as costly a lesson as there's to be had.
Leach produced the rarest of cricket achievements - dismissing Steve Smith - with the batting maestro on 118, by getting a ball to spit out of the rough and take the edge to Ben Stokes at first slip.
Smith was halfway to the boundary - angrily admonishing himself - when the big screen flashed up with the first replay of Leach overstepping the mark.
"When I saw the foot over the line and (umpire) Kumar (Dharmasena) called me back it was 'how good's this, I get to stay out here and keep batting'," Smith said
And that's exactly what Smith did, resuming his rampant run scoring to finish on 211 and ensure Leach's unforgivable error was a costly one.
PAINE HITS BACK AT CRITICS
Tim Paine has felt plenty of barbs in recent weeks: about his captaincy and his batting.
He rode his luck, enjoying two lives from dropped catches, to silence some critics with a vital, gutsy half-century to add 145 with Smith as Australia batted England out of the contest.
Paine hit eight boundaries, including some crisp cover drives, while putting away the pull shot which has proven his downfall this series.
Having notched just one half-century in his previous 17 Test innings, Paine was finally dismissed for 58 first ball after tea.
ARCHER'S HARSH REALITY CHECK
Jofra Archer burst onto the Test scene with a bang at Lord's - and backed it up with brilliance at Headingley.
Old Trafford delivered a serious reality check for the supremely talented young quick who registered comfortably his worst Test figures of 0-97.
Archer, who dropped an extremely tough caught and bowled chance off Smith early in the day, was mercifully saved the ignominy of a first ever bowling century by Tim Paine's declaration, but it was certainly a tough day out for cricket's newest sensation.
BEN STOKES INJURY CONCERN
It's been hailed as Stokes' Ashes, but for a moment it looked like they were in crisis.
Five balls into his second spell of the day, Stokes pulled up with a grimace and dejectedly snatched his cap and sweater from umpire Kumar Dharamsena before leaving for the dressing room, and requiring Jack Leach to finish his over.
After being diagnosed with right shoulder soreness Stokes returned to the field shortly after, but didn't return to bowl as Australia racked up the biggest first innings score of the series.
Stokes had initially tweaked the shoulder with a routine throw in from the boundary and aggravated it during an effort ball trying to unsettle Steve Smith.
It is a cruel blow for England, with Stokes being England's second-most threatening bowler at Old Trafford - though he was leaking runs.
WHO SAID LIFE AS A LEFTY WAS HARD?
Mitchell Starc made a mockery of the theory that batting as a left-hander in this series was impossible (admittedly against a bowling attack that was almost completely broken after two days in the field).
Called in for the team for the first time this series, he made an instant impact with a cheeky cameo with the bat.
Batting like Ben Stokes at Headingley, Starc smashed seven boundaries and two sixes in a demoralising 54 not out as England spread the field but still couldn't stop the onslaught.
In the space of three deliveries, Starc crushed two on-drives and then a square drive off Stuart Broad as the gallant quick's shoulders started to sag.
ROOT'S FIELDS UNDER FIRE
At the tail, Jofra Archer was bowling to a field with no slips, a gully and a third man so fine that he was effectively a backstop - more frequently seen in under 11s than the Ashes.
Not for the first time this series the fields being set by Joe Root were tantamount to a white flag being waved, and the England skipper was heavily criticised by former captain Geoffrey Boycott.
Australia's tail wagged, with Mitchell Starc and Nathan Lyon adding 59 unbeaten runs for the ninth wicket.
STRUGGLING MIDDLE ORDER FLOUNDERS
The inclusion of Marnus Labuschagne has fixed up some of Australia's's woes - namely, giving them a steady option in the top three - but huge frailties remain in the middle order on Thursday's evidence.
Travis Head was able to add just one run to his overnight score before becoming Stuart Broad's third victim - trapped LBW for 19.
His exit, alongside a set Smith, presented a golden chance to Matthew Wade to reprise his Edgbaston role where he hit a stirring century in his comeback Test.
Instead, Wade ground his way to 13 before a throwing his wicket away to a wild swipe at Jack Leach.
Smith's reaction said it all - he turned away in disgust as Wade left the ground.
WADE'S MIRACLE CATCH
As dusk approached, England's openers were given the unenviable task of having to face up to Australia's menacing quicks for a nasty hour.
After surviving two Mitchell Starc overs, Joe Denly had no such luck against Pat Cummins - who beat the bat, and then cut the reformed No. 4 in half with a sensational off-cutter.
Somehow Denly's stumps weren't scattered, but the following ball Denly clipped a half-chance to bat pad where Matthew Wade took an absolute screamer.
The ball ricocheted off Wade's hands before the former keeper produced remarkable reflexes to recover and dive to his right where he claimed a sharp one-handed grab.
FREDDIE IN THE STANDS
There were plenty of interested onlookers at Old Trafford on Thursday, but the one who got the biggest cheer from the crowd was 2005 hero Andrew Flintoff.
The burly all-rounder - turned boxer - tormented Australia with his round-the-wicket bouncers that ran through Australia in that famous series.
One wonders whether he would've had any idea of how to dislodge Steve Smith.
FINALS FEVER HITS OLD TRAFFORD
It wasn't just the action in the middle at Old Trafford which grabbed the attention of the Australian dressing room on Thursday - because back home the AFL finals were starting.
The first clash of the weekend was the West Coast Eagles v Essendon in Perth pitted a few members of the dressing room against each other.
Skipper Tim Paine is a Bombers fan while coach Justin Langer is on the Eagles' board, and under-pressure opener Marcus Harris showed where his allegiances lay in the dressing room.
"The coach is on the board (of the Eagles), so hopefully they lose," said Harris of his good mate Langer.
The coach had the last laugh, however, with the Eagles enjoying a thumping victory.