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Writing before the start of the third day at Old Trafford, it is tempting to agree that England are now engaged merely in damage limitation, hoping to escape with a draw and arrive at the Oval with the series still to be won. Such hope may have withered by the time I finish writing, expired by the time you are reading this. But you never know.
Once upon a time – I choose the phrase because what follows may indeed seem like a fairy-tale to younger readers – facing a first innings score of just under 500 with three days to play would have been regarded as a difficult task, but not a daunting one.