Steve Smith’s incredible run of form continued on Thursday, as his third double hundred in Test cricket powered Australia to a total of 497-8.
Australia declared in the evening session to give themselves 10 overs with the ball, and the decision was vindicated when Joe Denly departed for four to make a great day for Australia even better.
Smith began the day unbeaten on 60, and seemed to struggle in the early stages of the day, playing and missing while also offering a catching chance to Jofra Archer. Having done the inevitable and gone past his 26th Test hundred, it seemed his knock was to end on 118 when he pushed forward and edged to slip off the bowling of Jack Leach.
It wasn’t to be, however, as replays showed that Leach’s front foot had gone over the line. England could have had Australia 273/6, but it wasn’t to be. And it proved a turning point for the Australians, as in Tim Paine, Smith found a partner able to grind down England’s bowlers alongside him.
The Australian skipper, having struggled for runs in the series, did little wrong in his innings, and together alongside Smith took Australia to tea on an imposing total of 369/5. Jofra Archer looked down on pace once more, the pitch offered little assistance to the seamers and little appeared to be going England’s way.
Paine departed from the very first ball after the interval to Overton to give hope, but it was false. Smith offered no respite as he advanced to 200 for the third time in his Test career, and third time against England. He loves batting in the Ashes.
Smith fell looking to up the ante, a reverse-sweep off Joe Root finding Joe Denly at backward point. But Mitchell Starc and Nathan Lyon continued to frustrate England’s bowlers – Starc, in particular, struck some very lusty blows to go to a half-century. Five-hundred looked on but Tim Paine felt 497-8 was enough; Australia declared to let their fearsome fast bowlers have a go at England’s openers.
Denly, promoted to the top of the order, offered a catch to short leg, and Matthew Wade reacted brilliantly to hand Pat Cummins a wicket.
England finished the day on 23/1, trailing Australia by 474 runs. With the Old Trafford pitch offering turn, England will know that beyond Australia’s brilliant pace attack, they will have to negate the threat of Nathan Lyon tomorrow if they are to keep themselves in this Test match.
Personalise your homepage with an ICC account
News, fixtures and updates tailored to your favourite team. Never miss a moment!