Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 12 November 2019

England v Australia: Steve Smith back in the old routine with double century at Old Trafford

England bowlers toil as Australia declare on 497-8 on Day 2 of the fourth Ashes Test

Australia's Steve Smith celebrates after reaching 200 on Day 2 of the fourth Ashes Test against England. AFP
Australia's Steve Smith celebrates after reaching 200 on Day 2 of the fourth Ashes Test against England. AFP

Steve Smith’s domination of the Ashes continued as he hit 211 to put Australia in control of the fourth Test at Old Trafford.

His double century was the centrepiece of the touring side’s total of 497-8 as a beleaguered England attack wilted.

Australia declared to leave England 10 overs before the close. By stumps, they had made it to 23-1 with Joe Denly falling to Pat Cummins.

Despite missing the last match due to concussion, Smith now leads the next best player in the run-charts in this series – Ben Stokes – by 262 runs.

His scores of 144, 142, 92 and 211 add up to 589. With three innings potentially left in this series, Donald Bradman’s Ashes record aggregate of 974 might even be within his reach.

The fact Smith fell straight back into the same routine after missing the last game is perhaps no surprise. He has been relentless in making up for lost time.

He is now the leading Test run-scorer in the world this year, despite giving everyone else a seven-month head start, because of his ball-tampering suspension.

And to think, England thought they might have found the answer as to how to stop Smith when Jofra Archer peppered him with short pitch bowling at Lord’s.

Smith made a joke of that theory in this innings. While he was assembling his third double century in successive Ashes series, Archer was looking downcast. The fast bowler ended with no wicket for 97 from 27 overs.

Much was made after the Headingley Test about the idea of “Mother Cricket”. That being the sense that things have a way of evening themselves out in the sport, so crowing too much when you are winning might not be too savvy.

The idea that cricket is a great leveller was born out on Day 2 at Old Trafford.

Jack Leach and Ben Stokes could scarcely have been celebrated any more after their heroic 76 run stand to win the last Test. And fair enough, too - it was an alliance for the ages, after all.

Stokes was marked out for a knighthood by all and sundry. Leach, for his part, saw his own cult hero status embellished. To the extent that he even caught himself tuning into a Twitter conversation between an account purporting to be his glasses, and another his glasses’ cleaning cloth.

If that was all very surreal, they both came back to reality with a bump. First they thought they had combined to finally dismiss Smith, Stokes the catcher off Leach’s bowling when the Australian was on 118.

And then, a quick umpire’s check for a TV view of the popping crease showed that Leach – a slow bowler who barely breaks out of an amble in his approach to the crease – had overstepped. A no ball to reprieve the man England wanted most.

Later, it was Stokes who felt anguished - physically this time, as he was forced out of the attack and off the field, with a ball still to bowl in his 11th over.

He did at least return to field before the end of the session, but did not bowl again because of the effects of a sore shoulder.

The dynamic duo’s travails were symptomatic of an afternoon of woe for England.

Tim Paine was dropped by Jason Roy at slip on nine, then again later by substitute fielder Sam Curran at mid-on when he was on 49.

By then, Australia were deep into what feels like a potentially seminal stand in the series, between a captain who needed the runs, and the former one who might never stop scoring them. They shared 145 for the sixth wicket.

Even once they were parted, Australia’s lower order continued to make merry, with Mitchell Starc hitting a quick-fire half century before the declaration came.

Updated: September 5, 2019 10:18 PM

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