A gruesome blow to the neck to Steve Smith off the bowling of Jofra Archer overshadowed what was another match-defining innings from the former Australia captain on the fourth day at Lord’s.
Smith’s 92 – his lowest score in his last four Test innings in England – was interrupted after he was struck by a sharp Archer bowler while on 80. Smith lay on the ground for several minutes before he eventually got to his feet and left the field retired hurt unassisted to a standing ovation from the Lord’s crowd.
He returned to the crease less than a hour later to resume his innings, lasting nine balls before he left a straight delivery from Chris Woakes and was dismissed lbw eight runs short of a third century of the series. He was taken to hospital later in the day for an X-ray for an arm injury – also sustained from an Archer short ball.
His injury and subsequent return took focus away from what was another sublime innings from Smith. After rain meant that no play was possible on day one and only 24.1 overs were played on day three, England, who are already 1-0 down in the series, needed to bowl Australia out quickly on day four to realistically force a result.
Australia resisted England’s attack well in the first session, only losing the wicket of Matthew Wade, caught by Rory Burns in the slip cordon off the bowling of Stuart Broad, in a steady first session. The game exploded into life after lunch where the crowd witnessed a thrilling contest between Archer and Smith.
Archer, playing in his first Test, bowled one of the quickest spells in recent memory and peppered Smith with a series of short deliveries. Smith held firm superbly prior to the blow to his neck in the 76thover. Pat Cummins was also resolute in defence as he battled hard for a 80-ball 20 that frustrated England’s bowlers. Australia were eventually bowled out for 250, eight runs behind England’s first innings total, with Broad finishing with impressive figures of 4/65.
With four sessions left in the Test at the start of the England second innings, a result looked unlikely. Five overs later, that changed. Cummins, charging in from the Pavilion End, took two wickets in two balls to tip the contest in Australia’s favour. Jason Roy and Joe Root were the men to go as England suddenly found themselves on the back foot on a day where they started on top. Rory Burns and Joe Denly resisted for over an hour before they both fell in the space of four Peter Siddle deliveries. Burns edging behind to Tim Paine and Denly offering a sharp but relatively simple return catch to an obliging Siddle.
Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes saw England through to the close four wickets down, leading Australia by 104. Australia will go into the final day knowing that if they can bowl England out in the first session, they’ll have an excellent chance of extending their series lead.
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