Australia captain Steve Smith’s solid hundred denied England a moral-lifting victory in the fourth Ashes Test in Melbourne.
Once again, the captain showed his ability to adapt to the situation, taking 275 balls, during which he hit just six fours, to destroy any England hopes of victory after they started day five on 103-2, 61 runs behind.
Rain interrupted play again, but given Smith’s immovable approach, the few overs lost would not have affected the outcome.
More telling were the overs lost on day four, when only 44 overs were played before rain and a wet field stopped play.
Smith at that stage was on 25, alongside David Warner, playing equally cautiously for 40 off 140 balls. A brief shower interrupted the flow on day five, and shortly after the resumption, Warner went on to 86 off 227 balls before suddenly going for a big slog and being caught off the part-time spin of Joe Root. Until that moment, he had shown remarkable resilience; his fifty was the slowest of his career.
England’s hopes soared when, seven overs later, Shaun Marsh was caught behind off Broad after scoring just four.
But that was as good as it got as Smith ground his way to his third hundred of this series and his 23rd overall. Mitchell Marsh was even more resolute. He batted 166 deliveries for 29.
They finally called it quits when Australia were 263-4, having scored 160 runs in almost a full day’s play. Their overall run-rate of 2.42 for the match was Australia’s lowest in a home Test for nearly 24 years.
Smith’s century, his sixth of the year, made him the highest run-getter in Test cricket for the year, with 1 305 at 76.76.
If there was any consolation for England, they have at least avoided a series whitewash, and if the Melbourne pitch had been more lively, they may well have gained a pride-restoring victory.
The fifth and final Test will be played under lights in Sydney, starting 4 January.
Photo: George Salpigtidis/EPA/BackpagePix