Birmingham     -    Yet another Ashes century from Australia’s Steve Smith, his second of the match, has left England facing a huge battle to save the first Test at Edgbaston.

In his first Test since returning from a ban for his part in the ball-tampering scandal, the former captain added 142 to his first-innings 144. With Matthew Wade moving into Smith’s slipstream for 110 of his own, Australia took their overnight 124-3 to 487-7 and declared to set England 398 to win.

Chasing such a total is out of the question, but the hosts’ survival hopes were boosted by openers Rory Burns and Jason Roy coming through seven overs to close on 13-0. England will have to bat out the final day if they are to avoid losing an Edgbaston Test for the first time in 11 years. They must do so on a surface that will offer plenty of assistance to off-spinner Nathan Lyon, who opened the bowling and immediately proved a much greater threat than England’s Moeen Ali.

As Moeen was unable to tie up an end and the part-time spinners were expensive, pace bowlers Stuart Broad and Ben Stokes pounded away on a surface giving them little. They again did so without their leading Test wicket-taker James Anderson because of a calf injury, while Chris Woakes bowled only seven overs.

While it is fair to highlight the fact Smith has not faced one ball from Anderson in the match, given the context of his return and the circumstances in which he arrived at the crease in both innings, he has returned one of the all-time great Test batting displays. In the first innings he came out at 17-2, the second 27-2, only to grind England into the dirt with his concentration, judgement, maddening fidgeting and ability to seemingly place the ball wherever he pleases.

Not only that, but his continuing occupation of the crease - this was his sixth ton in seven Ashes Tests - left an Edgbaston previously keen to taunt him silent. Both England’s players and their supporters are sick of the sight of him and there are still four matches remaining in this series. He resumed on 46 and extended his stand with Travis Head to 130 before adding 126 with Wade. The trademark nudges to the leg side continued, but were joined by handsome drives through the covers.

One miscued drive, on 51, was the closest England got to removing him before a missed throw from the deep would have seen him short of his ground on 133. At one point, wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow resorted to trying to stump him by rolling the ball at the stumps when stood back to Broad.  It was a complete shock when Smith finally played a wild drive at Woakes and was caught behind. As he departed, there were some boos, but almost all of Edgbaston stood to acclaim the brilliance it had witnessed.

Head moved from 21 to 51 without alarm, but when he played a loose slash at Stokes, Australia’s lead stood at 115 and England had hope.

It was snatched away by Wade, a wicketkeeper playing his first Test in almost two years as a specialist batsman after some stellar form in domestic cricket.  The left-hander drove through the covers, clipped off his toes and swept to up the urgency of the Australia scoring.

He overturned being given lbw off Broad on 69 - another error by umpire Joel Wilson - and completed his third Test century, his first for more than six years, with a reverse sweep off Joe Root’s off-spin. Wade and captain Tim Paine, who made 34, fell in the space of nine deliveries, but by that time Australia were past 400. James Pattinson’s plunder of 47 not out from 48 balls, including four sixes, was the final torment of England’s dispiriting day in the field.





CT Bancroft c Buttler b Ali 7

DA Warner c Bairstow b Broad 8

UT Khawaja c Bairstow b Stokes 40

SPD Smith c Bairstow b Woakes 142

TM Head c Bairstow b Stokes 51

MS Wade c Denly b Stokes 110

TD Paine (c) b Ali 34

JL Pattinson not out 47

PJ Cummins not out 26

EXTRAS: (b11, lb2, nb6, w3) 22

TOTAL: (7 wckts, 112 overs,) 487

FOW: 1-13, 2-27, 3-75, 4-205, 5-331, 6-407, 7-409

BOWLING: SCJ Broad 22-2-91-1, CR Woakes 13-1-46-1, MM Ali 29-1-130-2, JE Root 12-1-50-0, BA Stokes 22-5-85-3, JL Denly 14-1-72-0

England 2nd Innings: (target: 398)

RJ Burns not out 7

JJ Roy not out 6


TOTAL: (o wkt, 7 overs,) 13

BOWLING: PM Siddle 2-0-4-0, NM Lyon 3-0-7-0, JL Pattinson 2-1-2-0

TOSS: Australia

UMPIRES: Joel Wilson (WI), Aleem Dar (Pak)

TV UMPIRE: Chris Gaffaney (NZ)