LONDON – Steve Smith registered his maiden Test century as Australia declared on 492 for 9 on a rain-hit day two of the fifth and final Ashes Test at the Kia Oval today.
Play began at 2.30 p.m. after the morning session and a chunk of the afternoon was lost due to the poor weather and there were some promising signs for England before Smith took centre stage with an unbeaten 138.
The overcast conditions produced plenty of movement for the pace bowlers, but the hosts were unable to stop Australia’s lower order from adding some useful runs to step up their pursuit of a consolation victory in the final match of the series. Smith was supported well by Brad Haddin (30) and Ryan Harris (33), while James Anderson took 4 for 95 to finish as the pick of England’s bowlers.
The declaration left England to face 17.3 overs before the close of play and although the Australia pacemen got the ball to go past the edge on a number of occasions, Alastair Cook (17 not out) and Joe Root (13 not out) came through unscathed on 32 without loss.
England started well as Anderson removed nightwatchman Peter Siddle for 23 in the fifth over of the day, the seamer pushing back off-stump after getting one to move away from the right-hander. But Smith weathered the early storm and began a solid march towards the first three-figure score of his Test career, with Haddin also chipping in.
Smith brought up the landmark in spectacular style, smashing Jonathan Trott’s medium pace down the ground for a huge six. However, Trott responded to remove Haddin just four balls later, the wicketkeeper chopping onto his stumps after misjudging a routine delivery from the part-time bowler.
Australia reached tea three runs short of 400 and after the interval James Faulkner made a quick-fire 23 before being caught on the boundary by Trott to give Chris Woakes his first Test wicket.
The lost overs meant the tourists were keen to up the scoring rate and Mitchell Starc hit 13 off 8 balls before being bowled by Graeme Swann while attempting a slog across the line.
With the over rate slowing, Harris smashed a couple of sixes in his 27-ball innings before slicing a heave high in the air, which Anderson tracked from the bowler’s end across to short extra cover to take a fine over-the-shoulder catch. Nathan Lyon was sent out but the No 11 did not face a ball before the declaration came as skipper Michael Clarke called the innings off with Smith still not out.
At the start of the day, rain brought a temporary halt to Australia’s charge after the tourists had dominated with the bat on day one, reaching 307 for 4 by the close of play. They were unable to build on that score as the morning session and another 80 minutes in the afternoon were washed out. With persistent rain continuing to fall, it was decided that lunch would be taken at 12.30pm, with a planned restart initially set at 1.10pm. But conditions had not sufficiently improved by then, prompting a further delay. (Sky)