Ashes 2019: Steve Smith century frustrates England in first Test

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Men’s Ashes: First Specsavers Test, Edgbaston (day one of five)
Australia 284: Smith 144, Siddle 44, Broad 5-86, Woakes 3-58
England 10-0
England trail by 274 runs

Australia’s Steve Smith made a magnificent 144 on his return to Test cricket after the ball-tampering scandal to halt England’s charge on the opening day of the Ashes at Edgbaston.

The former captain dragged the tourists from 122-8 to 284 all out, with England surviving two overs to close on 10-0 to delight the partisan crowd.

Smith, joining team-mates David Warner and Cameron Bancroft in making his Test comeback, was booed to the crease and witnessed a collapse of five wickets for 23 runs from the non-striker’s end.

He finally found a capable ally in number 10 Peter Siddle, the 34-year-old playing only his third Test in three years.

They added 88 for the ninth wicket, frustrating England and silencing the crowd until Siddle was caught at short leg off Moeen Ali for 44.

Smith, who was on 85 when he was joined by last man Nathan Lyon, drove Ben Stokes for four to reach his 24th Test century, then cut loose to punish the weary bowlers.

The last-wicket pair shared 74, taking advantage of an England attack without James Anderson, who is awaiting the results of a scan on a calf injury that restricted him to only four overs.

When Smith was eventually bowled to give Stuart Broad his fifth wicket, Rory Burns and Jason Roy negotiated an awkward period in the gloom without alarm.

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Engrossing day fits Ashes billing

If the usual protracted Ashes build-up was stunted by England’s World Cup triumph, the drama, atmosphere and fluctuations of this first day were a perfect reminder of what battles between cricket’s oldest rivals are all about.

For so long, it belonged to England as Broad and Chris Woakes made light of Anderson’s absence by exploiting the seam movement offered by a slow surface.

Australia’s collapse delighted those in the Hollies Stand, who waved sandpaper during the national anthems, taunted the visiting fans and told captain Tim Paine he will be “sacked in the morning”.

The chaos was added to by umpires Aleem Dar and Joel Wilson, who had four decisions overturned and gave another three that would have been changed if they had been referred.

Through it all, Smith was unmoved, playing one of the all-time great Ashes innings not only for how he rescued his side, but for doing so while dealing with the emotion and abuse drawn by his return.

By the end, particularly with pessimism surrounding the fitness of Anderson, he had given Australia the upper hand.

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Superb Smith frustrates England again

England were tortured by Smith’s 687 runs in their 4-0 defeat down under 18 months ago and here the ex-skipper ominously showed that his obduracy, idiosyncrasies and thirst for runs have not been dimmed by his time out of the game.

While the Hollies Stand sang that he will “cry in a minute” – a reference to his tearful news conference after the ball-tampering scandal – Smith first absorbed England’s pressure then grew into an innings that later saw him flay the ball to all parts.

He left with flourishes of the bat, chastised himself when he played a false shot and got into awkward positions as he nudged and guided the ball square of the wicket. All the while he fidgeted and adjusted his kit.

His judgement was impeccable. When he was given out lbw on 34, playing no stroke to Broad, it was umpire Dar who had made the mistake, not Smith.

Smith trusted Siddle with the strike and only when he was joined by Lyon did he emerge from his cocoon to take the attack to England.

By the end, they were bowling to him with all nine fielders on the boundary, and the torment was only finished when he was bowled aiming a heave at Broad.

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Opening day follows Ashes script

The suspicion before this first day was that this would be a series where two fragile batting line-ups would be dominated by skilful pace bowlers.

Even with Smith’s heroics, there was plenty here to prove that theory right, as the rest of Australia’s top nine combined faced fewer deliveries than their number four.

With Broad and Woakes bowling an impeccable length, the tourists collectively got stuck on the crease or played across the line to be pinned on the pads or caught behind the wicket.

When Broad served up a rare short ball, Paine obligingly hit it straight to Burns at deep square leg.

It was encouraging for England that Burns and Roy, with only 10 caps between them, watchfully got through an over apiece from pace bowlers Pat Cummins and James Pattinson.

However, a side bowled out for only 85 by Ireland last week have plenty of work to do on Friday if they are to bat themselves back into a position of strength.

‘One of the great, great innings’ – what they said

Australia’s Steve Smith on BBC Radio 5 Live: “It hasn’t really sunk in yet. I’m really proud of the way I was able to stand up today.

“We were in a bit of trouble there and we had to dig deep on a wicket that wasn’t easy.”

Former England captain Michael Vaughan on BBC Test Match Special: “Sometimes you have to accept greatness is in front of you. Today we saw one of the great, great innings.

“Where Steve Smith has come back from, after an emotional rollercoaster, for him to deliver this is incredible.

“This one innings is winning Australia the Test match. Can Joe Root do tomorrow what Steve Smith did today?

“The greatest format delivers once again, and the greatest cricketing contest, in my eyes, delivered once again.”

BBC cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew: “There is no doubt who today belongs to. Smith was booed whenever he went out to bat and scored not just a hundred but produced a truly outstanding innings.”

England bowler Stuart Broad: “After losing the toss you take bowling a team out for under 300 every day of the week.

“Here day two is usually the best time to bat so that is a positive and the way Smith played shows runs can be got on the that pitch. We are pretty happy.”

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