BIRMINGHAM: England finally saw the back of Steve Smith but only after a second century in his comeback Test saw Australia compile a potentially match-winning lead in the Ashes opener at Edgbaston on Sunday.
Ashes-holders Australia, bidding to win their first Test series away to England in 18 years, were 356-5 at tea on the fourth day — 266 runs ahead — with the hosts a bowler down in the absence of James Anderson.
Smith made 142 following his 144 in the first innings of the match — the former Australia captain’s first Test since the end of a 12-month ban for his role in last year’s ball-tampering scandal in South Africa.
Matthew Wade, in his first Test for nearly two years, was 86 not out after putting on 126 for the fifth wicket with Smith.
Only three times have a side made more than 150 in the fourth innings to win a Test at Edgbaston.
Smith is just the fifth Australia batsman to score a hundred in both innings of an Ashes Test, following Warren Bardsley (136 and 130 at The Oval, 1909), Arthur Morris (122 and 124 not out at Adelaide, 1946-47), Steve Waugh (108 and 116 at Old Trafford, 1997) and Matthew Hayden (197 and 103 at Brisbane, 2002-03).
Having reached lunch on 98 not out, Smith went to three figures in style when he cover-drove England paceman Stuart Broad for his 10th four in 147 balls faced.
He celebrated by removing his batting helmet and waving his bat joyously towards the Australia changing room.
And while there was applause from a packed crowd, there were also renewed chants of “Crying on the telly, we saw you crying on the telly” in a reference to the emotional press conference Smith gave in Sydney after he was sent home from South Africa.
“When he goes out to bat, it’s almost like he’s in a trance-like state,” former Australia captain Waugh told Channel Nine.
“He knows exactly what he’s trying to do, exactly what the opposition are trying to do... he analyses every ball and it’s like a computer, he spits out the answer,” added Waugh, now a mentor to the Australia squad.
England captain Joe Root brought himself on to bowl his part-time off-breaks and deployed Joe Denly’s occasional leg-spin in a desperate bid for wickets on a sluggish pitch.
Wicket-keeper Wade, who is playing as a specialist batsman, with Australia captain Tim Paine behind the stumps, reverse-swept Root to complete a 70-ball fifty.
Wade was given out lbw to Broad by Wilson on 69 but his review showed the ball going over the top of the stumps.
The new ball, however, did eventually give England the wicket they craved.
Seamer Chris Woakes got a delivery to deviate in the air outside off stump, with Smith edging an intended drive to wicket-keeper Jonny Bairstow.
The match was in the balance when Australia resumed on 124-3, a lead of just 34 runs, with Smith 46 not out and Travis Head unbeaten on 21.
Smith, cleared of concussion after being hit on the head by a Ben Stokes bouncer on Saturday, has now scored more than 1,000 runs in his past 10 Ashes innings.
England were once more looking to Broad, who took 5-86 in the first innings, to lead their attack in the absence of Anderson, their all-time leading Test wicket-taker.
Anderson only managed four overs in Australia’s first innings 284 before breaking down with a calf injury.
AUSTRALIA (1st Innings) 284 (S.P.D. Smith 144, P.M. Siddle 44; S.C.J. Broad 5-86, C.R. Woakes 3-58).
ENGLAND (1st Innings) 374 (R.J. Burns 133, J.E. Root 57, B.A. Stokes 50; P.J. Cummins 3-84, N.M. Lyon 3-112).
AUSTRALIA (2nd Innings, overnight 134-3):
C.T. Bancroft c Buttler b Moeen 7
D.A. Warner c Bairstow b Broad 8
U.T. Khawaja c Bairstow b Stokes 40
S.P.D. Smith c Bairstow b Woakes 142
T.M. Head c Bairstow b Stokes 51
M.S. Wade not out 86
T.D. Paine not out 7
EXTRAS (B-7, LB-1, W-3, NB-4) 15
TOTAL (for five wkts, 89 overs) 356
FALL OF WKTS: 1-13, 2-27, 3-75, 4-205, 5-331.
BOWLING (to-date): Broad 18-2-68-1 (1w); Woakes 13-1-46-1 (1w); Moeen Ali 24-0-107-1 (1nb); Root 8-1-32-0; Stokes 15-3-49-2 (3nb, 1w); Denly 11-1-46-0.