Batsman Steven Smith welcomed a second century in the Ashes series opener, as Australia’s second-innings lead climbed to 397 on day four at Edgbaston in Birmingham.
Australia, whose first innings was limited to 284 all out, moved to 487 for seven declared in reply to England’s 374. The hosts then moved to 13 without loss, with a target of 398 – or draw – to pursue on Monday.
Having struck 144 on Thursday, Smith collected 142 on Sunday. The dominance typified the talent of a player who averages over 62 in Test match cricket.
This is the prolific right-hander’s first Test since March 2018, after completing a suspension for ball-tampering earlier this year.
Prior to Sunday, no cricketer had gathered two centuries in the same Ashes Test since Australia’s Matthew Hayden in 2002.
Smith now has as many Test tons as India’s Virat Kohli, 25, but in a dozen fewer innings. He is also second only to the late Sir Donald Bradman for most runs scored across 10 consecutive innings in Ashes cricket. Smith collected 1116 to Bradman’s 1236.
The former captain was well supported by middle-order batsman Matthew Wade, who relished a first Test ton in six years. His last was 102 not out against Sri Lanka in Sydney in early 2013.
The pair shared a 126-run alliance for the fifth wicket, thwarting an England seam attack minus the services of the veteran James Anderson.
Anderson has been sidelined by injury, which effectively left seamers Chris Woakes, Stuart Broad and Ben Stokes overburdened – and part-time spinners Joe Denly and Joe Root allocated too many overs.
Frontline spinner Moeen Ali bowled the most overs in Australia’s second innings, exploiting conditions ripe with turn. Australian off-spinner Nathan Lyon, then, will likely be key on Monday.
Photo: Getty Images