Saturday 14 December 2019

Smith is Aussie hero

Batsman keeps England at bay in first Ashes test

STAR TURN: Australia’s Steve Smith hits a six against England during the first day of the Ashes at Edgbaston yesterday. Photo: Action Images via Reuters/Andrew Boyers
STAR TURN: Australia’s Steve Smith hits a six against England during the first day of the Ashes at Edgbaston yesterday. Photo: Action Images via Reuters/Andrew Boyers

Jos Buttler admitted England were left deflated by Steve Smith and Peter Siddle's ninth-wicket partnership on the first day of the Ashes at Edgbaston.

The hosts dominated the opening two sessions of the first Test, reducing Australia to 122 for eight despite losing James Anderson to injury early on.

Stuart Broad and Chris Woakes terrorised the visitors in Anderson's absence, but Smith and Siddle ensured they responded in emphatic fashion with a stand of 88.

Smith then added 74 with last man Nathan Lyon before becoming Broad's fifth victim - and his 100th in Ashes cricket - for 144 in Australia's to 284 all out.

Buttler said: "It was frustrating in the end. I think we bowled fanatically well, but that partnership between Siddle and Smith was frustrating that we couldn't break it earlier.

"I thought we bowled fantastically well this morning, going a bowler down was tricky for the guys to keep going.

"But it was an exceptional innings from Smith and we will see what kind of score that is tomorrow."

Smith produced a fine innings on his return to the Test arena following his 12-month suspension from international cricket for his part in the 2018 ball-tampering scandal.

The right-hander played the situation perfectly, dropping anchor when wickets tumbled around him before going through the gears alongside Siddle and Lyon.

Buttler added: "It is very tough. He played a fantastic innings."

There was an element of pantomime after Australia won the toss and opted to bat, Warner and Bancroft walking to the crease to a predictable volley, plus a chorus of "cheats, cheats, cheats" from the Hollies Stand.

Warner almost gave his detractors the satisfaction of a golden duck when he nicked Broad's loosener down leg, but the seamer's appeal fell on deaf ears - the first in a litany of incorrect decisions from umpires Joel Wilson and Aleem Dar.

Joe Root's failure to review ended up costing England only two runs, however, Broad snapping up the first wicket of the series in his second over.

Rapped on the pad by a fast, full delivery from round the wicket, Warner wrongly declined to query the lbw and trudged off as England fans sang "cheerio" and waved squares of sandpaper.

It took Bancroft 25 minutes to get off the mark and it was only a matter of time before Broad struck again, pushing him deep in the crease with a series of yorker-length deliveries then clipping the outside edge with a leg-cutter.

Bancroft crossed with Smith, inviting the loudest reactions yet, egged on by Broad. The seamer beat Smith's outside edge three times on nought but while he hung on Usman Khawaja could not, nicking Woakes behind.

Smith and Travis Head came together at 35 for three and added 64 before Woakes had the latter leg before, kicking off a sequence of five wickets for 23 runs in a one-sided afternoon session.

Matthew Wade, James Pattinson and Pat Cummins all fell lbw to different bowlers - Woakes, Broad and Ben Stokes - with Pattinson failing to challenge another poor decision.

But it was captain Tim Paine was guilty of the most irresponsible stroke, pulling Broad's short ball powerlessly to Burns in the deep.

The wicket England really wanted was Smith but barring one ill-judged leave to a seaming delivery from Broad on 34 - given out but reprieved by the third umpire - he reeled in a secure half-century.

All he needed was a reliable partner and in Siddle he found one. Their partnership added 88 to the score, taking Smith within sight of his hundred.

Moeen Ali was the man to finally remove Siddle, after more than 23 overs, with Jos Buttler taking a sharp bat-pad catch under the helmet.

Lyon's arrival saw Smith cut loose, turning down singles to farm the strike and relying on boundaries.

There were two sixes, off Moeen and Broad, but it was the cover drive for four which meant the most, taking him to three figures.

His fun continued until Broad bowled him late in the day, guaranteeing England's openers 12 nervy deliveries before stumps.

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