Smith's epic ton takes Australia ahead before Hazlewood makes his mark

‘Smith and Cummins partnership got Australia back’ (0:47)

Brydon Coverdale reports from the Gabba at tea on the third day of the first Ashes Test (0:47)

Australia 8 for 287 (Smith 113*, Hazlewood 2*) trail England 302 (Vince 83, Malan 56, Stoneman 53) by 15 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

Australia’s captain, Steve Smith, inched his side ever closer to first-innings parity with a masterful rearguard century, as a gripping, tactical, low-scoring contest continued to bubble on the third day at the Gabba.

By tea, Australia had reduced the deficit to a mere 15, thanks largely to Smith’s eighth-wicket stand of 66 with the scarcely less impressive Pat Cummins, whose maturity of shot selection helped to rescue his side from a pre-lunch nadir of 7 for 213. As Cummins soaked up 120 deliveries in his obdurate stay, it seemed as though Australia would bat clean through the afternoon session. But with five minutes remaining until tea, Chris Woakes finally found the edge, for Alastair Cook to scoop a low catch at a solitary slip.

Despite a frustrating session, England maintained their discipline and had conceded just 122 runs over the course of the day’s 54 overs. However, an injury scare for England’s main man of the day, James Anderson, cast a cloud over their efforts. Though he did not seem to be troubled when he returned to action before tea, his withdrawal from the attack after just three overs of the second new ball undermined England’s hopes of a quick kill, after he and Stuart Broad had struck twice in as many overs.

Nothing, however, could detract from the immense levels of skill and determination shown by Smith in particular, but Cummins too – both of whom put crease occupation ahead of forward momentum as they resolved to endure by whatever means necessary.

His process was hampered, too, by some innovative English tactics, with Woakes and Ball in particular drawing their lengths back to hammer the middle of the pitch, backed up by funky leg-side fields from Joe Root that had some Australian commentators referencing Bodyline tactics.

It was nothing of the sort, of course – merely an astute marshalling of England’s resources at a time when the old ball was offering little in the way of seam or swing, particularly with an operator as skilled as Smith still entrenched at the crease.

Smith, who had resumed on 64 not out overnight, knew full well how vital his continued presence would be, given that England’s own innings had featured three half-centuries but nothing more substantial than James Vince’s 83. And, having converted 20 of his previous 41 fifties into three figures, he was in the right frame of mind to convert his latest start and give Australia the best possible chance of extending their proud unbeaten run at the Gabba.

Smith added just 17 runs in the first session, and needed a glacial 261 balls to bring up his hundred, which he finally achieved with a crunching drive through the covers off Broad, one of the few occasions when he allowed his natural ability to over-ride his defensive mindset. His moments of alarm could be counted on one hand – on 69, he was caught unawares by a perfectly directed throat-ball from Jake Ball, but the spliced opportunity plopped short of the slips. But beyond that, Smith was happy to duck the short balls and get firmly into line against the straight ones, and bide his time in a manner that few players of the modern era are willing to do.

Shaun Marsh rather proved that point in the manner of his dismissal. He had been Smith’s partner when Australia resumed on 4 for 165, and though he marked his return to the Test team with a hard-fought fifty, he was eventually done in by a canny piece of bowling from Broad. Lured onto the front foot by an apparent wide half-volley, Marsh failed to clock that Broad had rolled his fingers down the seam, and Anderson collected a dolly of a lofted drive, as the ball skidded off the splice to mid-off.

Tim Paine, who had made his Australia debut alongside Smith against Pakistan at Lord’s in 2010, came out to join Smith for his first Test innings for seven years. And though he looked solid for a while, he had no answer to the ball of the day from Anderson. Armed with the new ball, as well as the knowledge that he needed to make it count, Anderson produced a snorter that angled into the right-hander, nipped away, and kissed the edge for Bairstow to collect a fine one-handed catch behind the stumps.

Mitchell Starc started his innings with eye-popping intent, slamming his second ball, from Broad, clean over long-off for six – to induce a wry grin and a shrug from the bowler. Two balls later, however, Broad had his revenge, hauling his length back just an inch or two to collect another attempted drive in his followthrough. At 209 for 7, Australia were on the ropes.

But then came Anderson’s apparent injury – a clutch of his side midway through his third over with the new ball, and a guarded chat with his captain. Though he initially remained on the field, he was delivered a tablet by England’s 12th man before lunch, and departed into the dressing room for further treatment in the afternoon.

Source: ESPN Crickinfo

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