Brisbane: Skipper Steve Smith played one of his greatest Test innings to prise a determined century and edge Australia closer to a crucial lead over England on the third day of the first Ashes Test at the Gabba today. Smith played an uncharacteristically restrained inning, raising his 21st Test century in 412 minutes off 261 balls with nine fours.
The world’s top-rated batsman showed extraordinary patience and commitment to rein in his natural scoringinstincts and guide his team closer to a psychological leadover England in a low-scoring Test. At tea, Smith was unconquered on 113 with Josh Hazlewoodtwo not out in Australia’s 287 for eight, trailing thetourists by just 15 runs. Smith — who averages just over 71 as Test captain, second only to the great Don Bradman — reached hispainstaking hundred with a flourishing cover drive for fouroff Stuart Broad to a huge roar from the home crowd.
He was contained by tight England bowling and fieldingafter losing three batting partners in the morning sessionbefore paceman Pat Cummins joined him at 209 for seven in the82nd over. Cummins played a crucial supporting role for his skipper , passing his previous highest Test score of 33 with 42 in hisfirst Test match at home. He was caught at slip off ChrisWoakes just before tea, batting for 139 minutes in a crucial66-run stand with Smith. The tourists view the Australian captain as their numberone target in the series, and Smith showed just what a keyplayer he is, escaping the shackles to claim yet anothercentury.
Joe Root’s field strategy for Smith was likened toBodyline, also known as fast leg theory bowling, a notorioustactic devised by England on their 1932-33 tour of Australia, specifically to combat the dominant batting skills of DonBradman. The England skipper placed six fielders on the leg-sidewith three in the deep and had no-one in front of the bat onthe off-side while his pacemen bowled short-pitched deliveriesto Smith for a time.
The Australians lost Shaun Marsh, Tim Paine and MitchellStarc before lunch. Marsh reached his eighth Test fifty — his first in anAshes match — before he was deceived by a slower ball from Broad and lobbed a catch to James Anderson at mid-off. Marsh, recalled for an eighth time to the Test team, made51 off 141 balls and put on 99 runs with Smith for the fifthwicket.
Paine, back for his first Test in seven years, stayed atthe crease for an hour before he was dislodged by a smartone-handed catch by wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow off Andersonfor 13. Starc hoicked Broad for a straight six but fell two ballslater, spooning back a return catch to Broad as Smith saw batting partners come and go.