Ashes: Steve Smith double century puts Australia in control



Pint-sized Ashes: Australia pile on the punishment on day three
Third Ashes Test, Waca (day three of five)
England 403 (115.1 overs): Malan 140, Bairstow 119, Starc 4-91
Australia 549-4 (152 overs): Smith 229*, M Marsh 181*, Overton 2-102
Australia lead by 146 runs

Australia captain Steve Smith struck a magnificent double century and Mitchell Marsh a huge hundred of his own to demoralise England on the third day of the third Ashes Test in Perth.

The fifth-wicket pair shared a stand of 301 as Australia racked up 549-4 at the Waca, a lead of 146.

Smith – who made 141 not out in his side’s first-Test win in Brisbane – batted throughout the day, moving from his overnight 92 to an unbeaten 229, his highest Test score.

Marsh, on his return to the side, compiled his maiden Test ton on his home ground and was 181 not out at the close.

England managed only one wicket all day – their attack wholehearted but lacking the tools to be incisive on a flat pitch and under scorching sunshine.

Australia’s remorselessness – they added 346 to their overnight 203-3 – highlighted the tourists’ profligacy on the second day, when they lost six wickets for 35 runs to slip from 368-4 to 403 all out.

Steve Smith’s innings has now lasted more than nine hours

At 2-0 down, England must avoid defeat on a ground where they have not won since 1978 if they are to avoid surrendering the Ashes at the earliest possible opportunity.

With the chance of victory now looking slim, it is likely they will have to bat for much of the fourth and fifth days in order to save the game.

The pitch is only showing occasional signs of wear and there is rain forecast for Sunday and Monday – but they are only small crumbs of comfort for an England side who will have to face the fierce Australia attack after the best part of two days in the field.

Brilliant Smith grinds England down

Such was Smith’s comfort, calmness and composure, a massive score seemed inevitable both when he arrived at the crease on Friday and again when he resumed on Saturday.

It was chanceless and ruthless from the skipper, who moved his batting average to 62.89, second to only the great Donald Bradman on the all-time list.

He reached his 22nd Test century in the fifth over of the day by clipping James Anderson through mid-wicket and, even then, there was the sense he was just getting started.

Twice Anderson asked for a review, once when the ball was missing leg stump and again after what was revealed to be a no-ball – and it would not have been given out in any case.

As on the second day, the off-side scoring was a feature of Smith’s play as he became the first captain for 24 years to score a double hundred in an Ashes Test.

His celebrations on reaching 200 were animated and, by the close, he had 416 runs in the series at an average of 208.

Marsh makes his mark

Marsh had played 21 previous Tests and averaged only 21 with the bat before being recalled to replace the out-of-form Peter Handscomb and give Australia an all-round option.

He entered after brother Shaun edged the off-spin of Moeen Ali to slip with the hosts still 155 behind and the second new ball looming.

The closest he came to offering an opportunity was an uppish drive towards mid-on off Craig Overton when he was on only one.

Patient and powerful, Marsh played drives down the ground and on both sides, as well some scything cut shots.

His century was reached with a square drive off Stuart Broad, his celebration an emotional run towards the dressing room.

As Smith was becalmed in the evening, Marsh accelerated and will be eyeing a double century when play gets back under way at 02:30 GMT on Sunday.

England toil as Ashes slip away

England took just one wicket on the third day in Perth

England did not bowl badly. At times they looked short of inspiration and their ground fielding was sometimes ragged – but that can be expected in such circumstances.

It was a day that further highlighted the limitations of their attack. Though Anderson and Broad have more than 900 Test wickets between them, England do not have the pace or quality spin to make openings when the conditions are hot and flat.

In eight consecutive away Tests – here and in India – the lowest first-innings total England have conceded is 328. On every other occasion the opposition have gone past 400.

The tourists went through numerous plans. Over and round the wicket, sometimes with as many as six men on the leg side. If anything, they did not spend enough time settled on a traditional line and length.

There was no lack of effort, though. Overton even bowled with a hairline crack of the rib, suffered when he was hit while batting in the second Test and aggravated when diving on Friday.

Smith and Marsh were simply immovable – and England had no answers.

‘We need to stand up and fight’ – reaction & analysis

England assistant coach Paul Farbrace on BT Sport: “Everybody has got to get stuck in, stand up and fight and scrap in the second innings.

“Until the Test match finishes, we have to believe you can get something out of it.

“It’s going to be hard, but it is Test cricket. The best teams find a way to compete when their backs are against the wall. Now we need to show we have got character, we have got guts.”

Mitchell Marsh also has a one-day international hundred to his name, against India in Sydney in 2016

Mitchell Marsh, speaking to ABC about his maiden century: “It’s taken me 22 Tests. I wasn’t really nervous. I felt calm and that kept me going. I wasn’t thinking about too much. Anything wide, I was just going to slash at.

“You aspire to do that every game you play for Australia. To have to wait this long, it’s very sweet. It’s why we play – we play to win and play to make big runs. It means a lot for me to make a 100 in front of my grandparents. They’ve watched every game in the past eight years.

“It’s reward for all the hard work. I’m ecstatic. I’m a bit lost at the moment. I’ll be having a cold beer tonight.”

Former England captain Michael Vaughan: “Australia were ruthless today. You can achieve ruthlessness when you face an attack you’re not fearful of and can’t take you out of your bubble.

“It’s nothing we should be surprised by. This has happened too consistently in Australia in the 21st century.”


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