Smith’s bril­liant ton, and Eng­land’s Test grip slips again

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - SPORT -

AUS­TRALIA’s Steve Smith scored a bril­liant cen­tury to help wrest con­trol of the third Ashes Test back from a re­vi­talised Eng­land on a swel­ter­ing open­ing day at the WACA in Perth yes­ter­day.

The hosts, who will re­cap­ture the urn with vic­tory here af­ter win­ning the first two Tests, looked in real trou­ble when the dis­missal of Ge­orge Bai­ley be­fore tea re­duced them to 143 for five.

But Smith and wick­et­keeper Brad Haddin, how­ever, put on 124 for the sixth wicket with cir­cum­spect and, oc­ca­sion­ally, ag­gres­sive in­nings that con­trasted sharply with the cav­a­lier ef­forts of their team­mates – and Aus­tralia reached the close on 326 for six.

They were sep­a­rated when Haddin, who has scored half­cen­turies in all four in­nings in the se­ries, spooned the ball to James An­der­son at mid­wicket off the bowl­ing of Ben Stokes for 55 an hour be­fore stumps.

Smith reached his sec­ond Test cen­tury, how­ever, and was to re­sume to­day on 103 not out with Mitchell John­son, un­beaten on 39.

“Yeah it was nice,” Smith told re­porters. “Ob­vi­ously un­der a bit of pres­sure there los­ing a few wick­ets in the mid­dle but ... hope­fully we're in a de­cent po­si­tion.

“If we start well tomorrow, we can post a re­ally good score.”

Eng­land were left lament­ing a missed op­por­tu­nity to take con­trol of the Test and bowl­ing coach David Saker was dis­ap­pointed his pace­man had let Aus­tralia off the hook by not bowl­ing a con­sis­tent length.

“No doubt we let it slip,” he said. “It's prob­a­bly not the first time this se­ries as well we've had them on the ropes to a de­gree, and we haven't been able to fin­ish the job.”

Af­ter los­ing the toss for a third suc­ces­sive match and the chance to bat on what looked like an ex­cel­lent sur­face, the tourists ini­tially re­sponded to their do-or-die sit­u­a­tion with their sharpest dis­play of the se­ries to date.

Aus­tralia's bats­men looked in­tent on pil­ing on the runs as quickly as pos­si­ble – they were rock­ing along at five an over at one stage – but also con­trib­uted to their own demise with rash strokes.

David Warner’s at­tempted cut only to be caught at point for 60 would con­tend for the soft­est dis­missal of the day but Bai­ley (seven) also came close to claim­ing the hon­ours with a hook that saw him hole out on the bound­ary.

Cap­tain Michael Clarke (24) will also be dis­ap­pointed with the shot that led to his de­par­ture just be­fore lunch, a wicket which fol­lowed the run-out of opener Chris Rogers (11) and dis­missal of Shane Wat­son (18) in the first hour.

Eng­land spin­ner Graeme Swann, un­der pres­sure af­ter dis­ap­point­ing dis­plays in the Bris­bane and Ade­laide de­feats, made a sig­nif­i­cant con­tri­bu­tion by catch­ing Wat­son well in the slips be­fore ac­count­ing for dan­ger­men Clarke and Warner with his bowl­ing.

Seamer Stuart Broad took the wick­ets of Wat­son and Bai­ley and Eng­land, if not in charge, cer­tainly had the up­per hand at a ground where they have not won since 1978.

Smith had al­ready sig­nalled his in­tent with a big six to get off the mark, how­ever, and when he was joined by Haddin, Aus­tralia's rear­guard was in place.

While Smith played his scor­ing shots al­most ex­clu­sively to the on side, Haddin favoured off but they both brought up their half cen­turies from 76 balls with five fours and two sixes.

With the tem­per­a­tures out in the mid­dle now ex­ceed­ing 40 de­grees Cel­sius, the pair forced Eng­land to labour long into the ex­tended fi­nal ses­sion un­der the blaz­ing Perth sun­shine.

“It was a pretty tough part of the game,” said Smith. “They’d taken a few wick­ets and were pretty high so to dig through there, and get through a few of their big bowlers spells and cash in late in the game, that was the plan.”

Haddin had per­formed his coun­try a sim­i­lar ser­vice on the first day of the se­ries opener in Bris­bane, com­ing in with Aus­tralia at 132 for six and res­cu­ing the in­nings with a gritty 94.

Af­ter he had fi­nally de­parted to shat­ter the late af­ter­noon tor­por that had de­scended on the ground, Smith reached his cen­tury with a sub­lime pulled four off a short ball from Stokes and danced a jig in celebration.

Eng­land's hopes of another break­through were thwarted by a 59- run part­ner­ship be­tween Smith and the ob­du­rate John­son, the bowl­ing hero of the first two tests.

“It's prob­a­bly about even,” said Smith. “The wicket's pretty good, hope­fully we can cash in in the morn­ing get 400, 450 and re­ally be able to set the game up from there.” – Reuters

MAN OF THE MO­MENT: Steve Smith hit a stylish cen­tury, his sec­ond in Tests. His first scor­ing shot was a six.

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