Smith’s defiant ton as Aussies takes lead

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Shukriya Pakistan

Skipper Steve Smith played one of his greatest Test innings to prise a determined century and edge Australia closer to a crucial lead over England on the third day of the first Ashes Test at the Gabba on Saturday.

Smith played uncharacteristically restrained innings, raising his 21st Test century in 412 minutes off 261 balls with nine fours.

The world’s top-rated batsman showed extraordinary patience and commitment to rein in his natural scoring instincts and guide his team closer to a psychological lead over England in a low-scoring Test.

At tea, Smith was unconquered on 113 with Josh Hazlewood two not out in Australia’s 287 for eight, trailing the tourists by just 15 runs.

Smith — who averages just over 71 as Test captain, second only to the great Don Bradman — reached his painstaking hundred with a flourishing cover drive for four off Stuart Broad to a huge roar from the home crowd.

He was contained by tight England bowling and fielding after losing three batting partners in the morning session before paceman Pat Cummins joined him at 209 for seven in the 82nd over.

Cummins played a crucial supporting role for his skipper, passing his previous highest Test score of 33 with 42 in his first Test match at home. He was caught at slip off Chris Woakes just before tea, batting for 139 minutes in a crucial 66-run stand with Smith.

The tourists view the Australian captain as their number one target in the series, and Smith showed just what a key player he is, escaping the shackles to claim yet another century.

Joe Root’s field strategy for Smith was likened to Bodyline, also known as fast leg theory bowling, a notorious tactic devised by England on their 1932-33 tour of Australia, specifically to combat 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 bowled short-pitched deliveries to Smith for a time.

The Australians lost Shaun Marsh, Tim Paine and Mitchell Starc before lunch.

Marsh reached his eighth Test fifty — his first in an Ashes match — before he was deceived by a slower ball from Broad and lobbed a catch to James Anderson at mid-off.

Marsh, recalled for an eighth time to the Test team, made 51 off 141 balls and put on 99 runs with Smith for the fifth wicket.

Paine, back for his first Test in seven years, stayed at the crease for an hour before he was dislodged by a smart one-handed catch by wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow off Anderson for 13.

Starc hoicked Broad for a straight six but fell two balls later, spooning back a return catch to Broad as Smith saw batting partners come and go.

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