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Smith ton gives Australia control

England ends rain-marred day two on 32/0 after Australia declares at 492/9

Smith ton gives Australia control - Cricket News
Steve Smith scored his maiden Test century to put Australia in a commanding position.
Australia’s feelgood story continued on a rain-affected second day in the fifth Ashes Test at The Oval on Thursday (August 22), as Steve Smith registered an undefeated maiden Test century to ram home the advantage created by Shane Watson on Wednesday.
 
Smith batted with intelligence, maturity, and controlled aggression from the moment he stepped onto the field after a rain-delayed start, carrying Australia from its overnight 307 for 4 to a final-session declaration at 492 for 9. When Michael Clarke, the captain, called his batsmen in just after 6 pm, Smith remained unbeaten on 138. England negotiated the period before stumps safely in reply, with Joe Root and Alistair Cook batting 17.3 overs to reach 32 without loss.
 
Australia will again be praying the rain stays away from the final three days of this Test. The first session and a half were lost, with play only getting underway at 2:30 pm. Play was extended to almost 7:30 in the evening as a result, but with England’s slow over-rate through the afternoon, plenty of extra time would have been required just to make up the minimum overs.
 
Smith would not often have been described as unflappable, but in his second coming as a Test batsman rather than a bowling allrounder, calm has been one of his characteristics. Yesterday he avoided being caught up in the excitement of Watson’s assault that reaped 176 runs; where once Smith might have tried to keep up, he supplied quiet support instead.
 
With Watson gone, Smith ably stepped up to take command, first in compiling a 65-run stand with Brad Haddin after Peter Siddle, the nightwatchman, fell early, then leading important partnerships with James Faulkner, Mitchell Starc and Ryan Harris. All up, 107 quick and crucial runs were added with the final four batsmen.
 
Jimmy Anderson was certainly glad to see Siddle begin the day at No. 6 – the inswinger that bowled him drastically increased Anderson’s tally of top-order wickets this series. Siddle’s 23 from 27 balls was creditable in the circumstances, with Australia’s other Ashes performances at No. 6 reading 81*, 0, 2, 1, 5, 19, 68, and 2, at an overall average of 26.28.
 
The umpires were sensible in regard to weather, pushing through a period of light rain, and both common sense and the crowd were rewarded as play continued for the rest of the afternoon. It was another packed house, weather or no weather. Every day at every ground this series has been perfectly full, and every crowd has been engaged, jovial, and a credit to themselves.
 
Smith moved carefully through the 80s and 90s, but when Jonathan Trott was brought on to bowl slow half volleys, he couldn’t hold back. On 94, having just passed his previous high score, Smith thumped a mighty drive back into the crowd at long-on, and raised him arms in triumph.
 
It was Haddin rather than the centurion who lost concentration directly afterwards, trying the dinky late cut off his stumps that has become one of his signature shots. In Trent Bridge he missed Graeme Swann and lost offstump, here he was cramped for room and played on. Smith had just shown that full-blooded shots were the answer to Trott’s bowling. As well as he batted in his other innings at Trent Bridge, Haddin has never quite grasped the responsibility his role requires.
 
England could still have clawed back: despite a massive century and another hundred, the total was only 385. It was the same issue for Australia as all series, where two top-order batsmen contributed while the rest disappeared. But Smith and Faulkner stepped up the pace after tea to make it clear Clarke was eyeing his declaration, taking 16 from one Stuart Broad over.
 
Faulkner played a team innings, holing out for 23 from 21 balls, while most of England's fieldsmen were put on the fence. Swann at last got his first bowl of the day in the 123rd over, and it took him only two balls to strike: a classic off spinner that drifted in to Mitchell Starc’s middle stump and beat his slog-sweep to peg back off. Ryan Harris belted two sixes and a four in an invaluable 27-ball 33, and after Smith got a single in the company of Nathan Lyon, Clarke decided enough was enough.
 
It left England with a bit over an hour to survive in the evening sun, but there were few scares to be had, with some erratic bowling, especially from Starc, who made little use of the new ball. Only Siddle really began to find his range as the shadows lengthened, beating the bat with a few that jagged as subtly as a jagging thing can do, and nearly having Cook lbw.
 
In the absence of any real juice from the pitch, it will be hard work for Australia to get the breakthroughs it needs tomorrow, and if this match turns into a bat-a-thon, it will put the performances from Watson and Smith into a different kind of context. Nonetheless, for tonight both men can be well satisfied with their contributions, and tomorrow, either one of them might have a further say in this match with the ball.
 

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