01172018

Smith nears 100 to frustrate England on second day

Steve Smith scored a century at the Waca in the 2013-14 series

Steve Smith scored an Ashes century at the Waca in the 2013-14 series

Captain Steve Smith made an unbeaten 92 as Australia forced their way back into the third Ashes Test on day two in Perth.

Smith’s chanceless and controlled knock took the home side to 203-3, 200 behind England.

Jonny Bairstow earlier completed a century for the tourists, but after Dawid Malan fell for 140, they lost their last six wickets for 35 runs in 51 balls to be 403 all out.

Though Craig Overton removed both openers to leave Australia 55-2, Smith shared 124 with Usman Khawaja, who was dropped twice in his 50.

Khawaja was eventually trapped lbw by Chris Woakes, but Smith remained, making batting look quite effortless in perfect conditions.

England’s lead is healthy and Australia will have to bat last on a surface showing occasional signs of variable bounce – yet Smith’s continuing presence leaves the hosts with a chance of gaining first-innings parity at least.

With Australia 2-0 up, England must not be beaten at the Waca – a ground where they have not won since 1978 – in order to avoid surrendering the Ashes at the earliest opportunity.

Their efforts in the last hour were hampered by an injury to Overton, who took a blow to the ribs in trying to take a return catch off Khawaja.

Win predictor: Aus 44%, Eng 29%, Draw 27%<!–

Superb Smith guides Australia

Smith had seen David Warner caught behind and Cameron Bancroft pinned leg before, both by the increasingly impressive Overton, when he made his way to the crease with Australia 348 runs behind.

The captain’s unbeaten 141 was the difference between the sides in the hosts’ first Test win in Brisbane and though he was kept relatively quiet at the Adelaide Oval, this was Smith again looking every inch the number one Test batsman in the world.

At the Gabba he favoured the leg side; here he played handsome drives through the off side to go with one pull for six off Overton.

Khawaja, scoring square of the wicket, played the supporting role until he was undone by one from Woakes that skidded and nipped off the seam.

There seemed every chance that Smith would complete a century before the close, but England stopped him from reaching three figures and it is his wicket that they will prize over all others when play gets back under way at 02:30 GMT on Saturday.

He will be joined by Shaun Marsh, who took 18 balls to get off the mark, but is coming off the back of a century of his own in Adelaide.

England engineer their own problems

England celebrate a successful review to remove Cameron Bancroft<!–

England celebrate a successful review to remove Cameron Bancroft

As well as Malan batted, the moment that he danced at off-spinner Nathan Lyon, miscued to point and was well held by diving substitute fielder Peter Handscomb can be pinpointed as when Australia began to get back in the game.

From there, the England lower order meekly surrendered – as they have in three of the four previous innings in this series.

Moeen Ali limply poked Pat Cummins to second slip, Woakes helped Josh Hazlewood to long leg and Bairstow played across the line to be bowled by Starc.

Overton patted Hazlewood to short leg and a swiping Stuart Broad top-edged Starc, who ended with 4-91. The final six wickets fell in a little over 45 minutes.

With the ball, England needed Overton to show them the correct length, while James Anderson curiously did not deliver a single ball to Smith until the skipper had reached 47. Moeen has not taken a wicket with his off-breaks since the third day of the first Test.

More costly were the lives given to Khawaja – first by a diving Overton attempting a return catch when the left-hander had not scored, then by second slip Joe Root, who appeared not to see an edge off Woakes when he was on 28.

And, late on, Marsh could have been held off Moeen by either wicketkeeper Bairstow or short leg Mark Stoneman, when the ball flew off the latter’s boot but could not be gathered as both dived for it.

Malan and Bairstow make England history

Jonny Bairstow celebrates his maiden Test century against Australia<!–

Jonny Bairstow celebrates his maiden Test century against Australia

The early progress of Malan and Bairstow was as serene as the first evening, when Malan reached his maiden Test century.

From 305-4 overnight, it took them 27 balls to score the first run of the day, after which Malan was once again into his trademark cover-driving.

As he did on Thursday, Bairstow ignored short deliveries and instead waited for anything overpitched to score on both sides of the wicket.

When he reached three figures with a single off Mitchell Marsh, the wicketkeeper celebrated his fourth Test century with a ‘headbutt’ of his helmet, referencing the accusation that he did the same to Bancroft at the beginning of the tour.

The Malan-Bairstow partnership of 237 is an England record for the fifth wicket against Australia and, when they were together, the tourists had the chance to bat themselves into an unbeatable position.

Malan was furious with himself when he gave his wicket to Lyon – rightly so, considering how Australia then turned the tide.

‘400 is a great effort from the guys’

England’s Jonny Bairstow, speaking to Test Match Special: “We’ve got 400 on the board. From 100-4, we could have been out for a lot less than that.

“For us to get 400 from that position was a great effort from the guys.

“We’re happy so far. Tomorrow the first couple of sessions are massive for us. There’s no reason why we can’t come out and take a couple of wickets.

“If we can take a lead into that second innings, who knows what can happen down the line?”

Jonny Bairstow has also scored Test centuries against South Africa and Sri Lanka<!–

Jonny Bairstow has also scored Test centuries against South Africa and Sri Lanka

Former England captain Michael Vaughan: “That was Jonny Bairstow’s best Test innings. He ducked and swayed away from the short stuff and had so much balance on the front foot. It was as good as I have seen him.

“England bowled too short again – especially Chris Woakes. He’s struggling on this tour.

“England have to take every chance they get tomorrow. Concentration is key.”

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