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From Stephan Shemilt
BBC Sport at Old Trafford
Steve Smith’s relentless dual century put Australia in prime position to keep the Ashes and demoralised England.
Smith worked his way – taking benefit of being shed by Jofra Archer on 65 and dismissed off a Jack Leach no-ball on 118 – to lead the visitors announced.
His third century of the show took his tally of runs to 584 and moderate to 194.66, all despite having missed the next Test because of concussion.
Despite all the brilliance of Smith, England might have had the chance to chip away at the other end’d Australia captain Tim Paine not been dropped within his 58.
Instead, Mitchell Starc’s 54 floged their exhausted attack not out as the tourists, who could have been 273-6 or 246-6, jumped towards a statement.
England dropped Joe Denly at short leg into Matthew Wade’s excellent response catch to close on 23-1 and then were awarded a 10 overs to bat. Rory Burns has nightwatchman Craig Overton three along with 15.
All isn’t lost for the home side – the placid pitch should offer no obstacles since they bid to bat nicely into Saturday in order to get close to the Australia total.
Because Australia have such a rating the Ashes secured to spare could be seen by some other kind of England collapse.
In precisely exactly the same way that all of England’s plans for Smith have been tired – he racked up 687 runs in the 2017-18 Ashes series down under – are there no more superlatives to bat for hours on end for unquenchable desire.
In four innings a remarkable achievement considering he did not play with a match.
Smith replied to strike the ball in areas he’s capable if there was any question that he could be mesmerized by the blow against Archer who concussed him Lord’s.
He had the chance of this reprieves, however he capitalised to flatten the house side and the Old Trafford crowd, ” the thankfully permitted to see after cold and the rain of Wednesday in more conditions.
Through also the first two Tests and the World Cup, Smith had been booed at every opportunity – if he walked outside reached a landmark, after being hit by Archer even when he came back out to bat.
This moment, when he was dismissed, Old Trafford gave him a standing ovation, understanding that we are witnessing an Ashes performance.
If England was the excuse of these components for their performance there was no concealing from their ineffective and ragged display on Thursday.
Archer was lacklustre using the ball he returned 0-97 out of 27 overs – and it was he who gave Smith his life, getting both hands to the ball in his follow-through following the former priest drove a low full toss back to the bowler.
Paine had been reprieved from easier chances – Jason Roy put down a border at second slip when he had been on nine, while a replacement fielder Sam Curran failed to cling on to a miscued pull at mid-on on 49.
However, the most galling was the Leach no-ball, found following Smith edged a delivery that is gorgeous to slide. Smith added that a 93 runs, although leach at continued to bowl tidily.
Headingley hero Ben Stokes departing a shoulder niggle to the field mid-over compounded england’s distress. After Stokes returned – he did not bowl – wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow required treatment.
Regardless of captain Joe Root’s efforts their frustration and dejection was real until Australia’s declaration gave them the chance to drag themselves off.
At 170-3 at the beginning of the day, when Travis Head played a direct one to provide Stuart Broad 224-5 and his third wicket in the point Wade, 183-4 skied Leach, Australia were much from in charge.
That was changed the captain making his first Test half-century for a year , by the stand of 145 involving Paine and Smith.
Smith had been Smith. If the ball wasn’t being left with flamboyance that was funny, it had been tucked into the leg or pushed throughout the covers and then down the ground.
There were instances when Leach bothered him when England tried to test his patience, but Smith outlasted them. As soon as the announcement became apparent did his shoulders open lofting 2 sixes before the twist of Root to third man.
By that point, Starc Archer for a six, hitting Broad for 3 consecutive fours, then slapping Root and climbed into the bowling.
It epitomised Australia’s superb moment when Denly was caught at short leg Pat Cummins by Wade, who dived to maintain a rebound off his own body.
Former England captain Michael Vaughan on BBC Test Match Special:”Smith is a artist – the greatest artist I have seen. I enjoy seeing him bat.
“England have three times of actual discipline and specialized nous ahead. It’ll test their mindset.
“I’ve been frustrated with England. This can be a must-win game. England had to arrive with the right mentality but what I have observed is the England side that looks somewhat dejected.”
Cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew:”Smith is a run system. You can not say he’s pretty to observe. He’s exhausting to watch.
“It is going to be a huge day tomorrow. England have got to bat nicely or they will lose.”
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