Steven Smith’s invincible form continued on the third day in Perth as he reached 1000 Test runs in a calendar year for the fourth successive year. Though England made amends by dismissing Shaun Marsh early in the day, they couldn’t get a single wicket in the remaining sessions conceding 346 runs.
Brief scores : Australia 549/4 (Steven Smith 229*, M Marsh 181*; C Overton 2/102, J Anderson 0/85) leads England 403 (D Malan 140, Bairstow 119; M Starc 4/91, J Hazlewood 3/92) by 146 runs.
CA selectors get it right, again
Australia’s team selection has been a subject of debate since the very first Test at the Gabba, when Tim Paine’s selection came under fire. However, the wicketkeeper didn’t only repay their faith but also silenced his critics with some magnificent DRS reviews from behind the stumps. With that debate more or less settled now, experts turned to Mitchell Marsh’s selection next.
Given the manner in which Shaun Marsh’s brother was taken out of the squad earlier this year, after getting brutally exposed against India in the Border-Gavaskar trophy, critics had every reason to question his selection. He was also branded as the worst No.6 batsman ever and many thought his return would bring back the nightmare into the Aussies team. However, the baked flat WACA strip and selectors’ growing confidence in Peter Handscomb’s inability to cope with it played a huge role in Marsh’s return.
Marsh had already impressed with his bat in the domestic circuit and looked confident from the very first ball of the third day, since he replaced his brother. His maiden century comprised of 29 boundaries, each having the sweet sound coming out from the middle of the bat, as his supportive role transformed to that of the aggressor with the passage of day.
How to get Steve Smith out?
A simple fact was established in the England dressing room way before they had even landed in Australia to retain the Ashes - either get Steve Smith out or lose the Ashes. Given the way Smith had begun his innings in WACA after two quick dismissals of Warner and Bancroft, Michael Clarke had predicted a double hundred for him even when he was still some way from his half-century.
With his second double-ton in Tests, Smith became only the fourth player to score more than one century in the Ashes after Sir Don Bradman (8), Walter Hammond (4) and Bob Simpson (2). However, the bigger problem in his case has been England’s lack of ideas to get him out. He hardly had to sweat to get to his double century with experts wondering if it was at all possible to get him out.
The same question asked by ESPNCricinfo got some funny responses, which looked quite realistic by the tea break. While one said, “Distracted by a drinks waiter, he doesn’t notice his shoelaces are undone and trips over them, falling on his stumps,” another suggested, “Tries to go for a quick run, flattened by a low flying tiger moth piloted by Gary Pratt”. A more seemingly pragmatic was, “Red card for suggesting to Malan that the England collapse was his fault.”
England bowlers’ pathetic run continues
When you have Mitchell Marsh getting a double century against you, you know that you’re more terrible than the social media says you are. However, apart from the directionless bowling that England pacers displayed throughout the third day at WACA, luck didn’t quite seem to favour them as well. A perfect example of it would be James Anderson’s rare chance with Smith post lunch.
The fast bowler could break Smith’s unshakeable defence to hit his pads. Despite Joe Root not looking entirely convinced, he gambled on his team's final review. However, the review didn’t need to go as far as the hawkeye view, as Anderson’s overstepping foot was enough to stop them in their tracks. Smith was on 173 and although further replays showed him not out, it was Anderson’s rare overstepping that pretty much summed up England’s bowling today.
Anderson, England’s most economical bowler, has featured in 132 games in his test career, having bowled more than 29,000 deliveries so far. He has just 38 no-balls to his name, and the last one had to come in a deciding Ashes Test match for Smith’s wicket.
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