Vastavam web: Steve Smith produced a defiant unconquered century and Josh Hazlewood claimed two wickets to leave England reeling as Australia cracked open the first Ashes Test at the Gabba today.The Australian skipper played one of his greatest Test knocks with an unbeaten 141, forged over eight and a half hours, to deliver his team a 26-run lead over the tourists on the third day.At the close with two days left, England were hanging on in a torrid ending to the day at 33 for two, leading by just seven runs with Root, on five, and Mark Stoneman, on 19, at the crease.
England captain Root did everything to remove the obdurate Smith with ‘Bodyline’-style field placings, but the world’s top-rated batsman laid waste to the tourists’ well- laid plans to give the Australians the advantage at the Gabba, where they haven’t lost a Test since 1988.”The previous three days mean nothing if we don’t get it right tomorrow. It’s in our hands,” he said.
“If someone goes and plays a Steve Smith-type knock (that) gets the bowlers into their third and fourth spells tomorrow we’re in the driving seat.” It was an uncharacteristic knock by the shotmaker Smith, with his 21st Test century built on unwavering concentration and patience to defy all of England’s efforts to dislodge him.Smith effectively carried his team past England’s total, but needed resolute lower-order support from Pat Cummins and Nathan Lyon as the last six wickets added 252 runs.
The fidgety Smith was tied down by meticulous England bowling and fielding after losing three batting partners in the morning session, before paceman Cummins joined him at 209 for seven in the 82nd over.Cummins played a pivotal supporting role for his skipper, overtaking his previous highest Test score of 33 with 42 in his first Test match at home, and helped put on a crucial 66- run stand.Root’s field strategy for Smith was likened to Bodyline, a notorious leg theory bowling tactic devised by England on their 1932-33 tour of Australia, specifically to negate the dominant batting skills of Don Bradman.
The England skipper placed six fielders on the leg-side with three in the deep and had no-one in front of the bat on the off-side while his pacemen ripped in short-pitched deliveries to Smith for a time.