Steve Smith hits second century to put Australia in command
The 30-year-old hit 144 in the first innings to lift the tourists out of trouble.
Steve Smith celebrated a second brilliant century of the match as he led Australia into a commanding lead on the fourth morning of the Ashes opener at Edgbaston.
Having carved out a brilliant 144 to rescue his side in the first innings, Smith once again proved a class above an England attack badly missing the injured James Anderson, turning his overnight score of 46 into his 25th Test hundred.
His efforts underpinned Australia’s score of 238 for four, a heavy advantage of 148 at this stage of the game.
Steve Smith becomes the first player since Matthew Hayden in 2002 to post twin tons in an #Ashes Test and the first since Steve Waugh in 1997 to do it on English soil | @samuelfez https://t.co/h8QetAdPsI— cricket.com.au (@cricketcomau) August 4, 2019
Smith brought up the landmark with one of his more aesthetically pleasing shots, driving Stuart Broad between mid-off and extra cover for his 10th boundary in the second over after lunch.
After becoming just the fifth Australian to hit twin hundreds in an Ashes Test – Matthew Hayden was the last in Brisbane 17 years ago – he removed his helmet and held his bat aloft as he took in the moment. There was less booing from the crowd than on day one, and a fair ripple of applause too, but the Hollies Stand did manage to rally for one chant of “We’ve seen you cry on the telly” in the moments after.
England took the field hoping for a big show from spinner Moeen Ali, who removed Cameron Bancroft on day three but also shipped 47 runs in his nine overs.
His ball scuttled low off the pitch and his fifth looped accidentally out of the hand, passing well above Smith’s head for a no-ball. It was an ominous start to a seven-over spell that failed to build pressure or bring chances, Smith and Travis Head in full control.
In the end England were forced to replace him with Joe Denly, whose part-time leg-breaks briefly offered a point of difference but included too many cheap runs.
Broad started soundly at the other end, with a pair of early lbw shouts around the wicket to Head. The angle of delivery was always against Broad, with both deliveries sliding down leg, but his length was full enough to ask the right questions.
For all his efforts Broad could not unlock the door, Head at one point taking him for two fours in three balls to top up the otherwise gentle accumulation.
The hundred stand ticked by in 172 balls, with Ben Stokes joining the attack. Digging in the occasional bouncer he finally got England on the board when Head’s outside edge sailed into Jonny Bairstow’s gloves for 51.
The umpires checked Stokes’ delivery stride before confirming the wicket, with his trailing foot seemingly close to no-ball territory.
Australia’s vice-captain might have fallen five runs earlier, and become Denly’s first Test wicket, when Denly beat his outside edge but Bairstow could not gather cleanly with the batsman out of his crease.
Smith began the final over of the morning on 97 but managed a solitary single off Moeen’s last delivery, deciding he did not need to rush to his landmark.
The break did not unsettle him, nudging a single off Chris Woakes – who did not bowl at all in the morning – before lacing Broad for the crucial runs.