Steve Smith has done it again. With a double century, Smith continued to dominate the English bowling attack in the current Ashes series. Steve Smith added 211 runs from 319 balls and Australia declared when their score reached at 497 for 8.
Mamus Labuschagne (67), Tim Paine (58), and Mitchell Starc (54) also added half centuries for Australia. Looking for a huge total, England have lost its first quick wicket and when the play was closing England was at 23 for 1.
Steve Smith was never beautiful but he is brilliant and forever mesmerising, especially during his increasingly eccentric post-delivery antics. He gives the spectator a visual running commentary of what is buzzing through his head; he gives England bowlers ever more gruesome nightmares and his Australia teammates a comfort blanket so big that the entire team could be wrapped inside it.
Australia have lost one Test in this series and Smith did not play in it. Here at Old Trafford he was back; within a few overs on Wednesday he dispelled the notion he was suffering any adverse effects from concussion. He picked up his bat and played as if he was still at Edgbaston.
It may not be a match-winning innings, though there is a strong likelihood of it. It certainly ensures that Australia will not lose this contest. It was not a flawless knock. Unusually he needed some assistance from his opponents. On 65 he offered a tough return catch to Jofra Archer from a low full-toss; on 118 he was caught at slip by Ben Stokes off Jack Leach but then came the realisation that the left-armer had overstepped.
Regular Smith watchers know the form: the extravagant footwork which takes him towards cover-point, the seemingly risk-free flicks through the leg side, the occasional firm-footed cover drive, the unerring dispatch of wayward deliveries and the constant impression that the pitch is five yards longer when he is on strike. If somehow Australia fail to retain the Ashes, a decreasing possibility, then Smith will be as mystified to be on the losing side as Shane Warne with his 40 wickets in 2005.
Despite the drop of Smith by Archer, which was little more than a half-chance, there was early encouragement for England. Stuart Broad dismissed yet another left-hander, Travis Head, lbw. Then Matthew Wade, who is not the type to grind down spin bowlers since he does not trust his defence, drove wildly against Leach and the ball hovered in the air for ages. Awaiting its descent was Root, who judged a swirling catch well. Australia were wobbling at 224 for five.
Steve Smith also became the first Australian since Allan Border in 1981-85 to score 500+ runs in consecutive Ashes series in England.
The ton was Smith's 11th in Ashes cricket but he should not have gone much further. The 30-year-old right-hander had looked more frenzied than usual at the crease after lunch and had already had a moment of fortune when he skied the ball high into the offside off Leach, only for it to drop perfectly in the gap between two fielders, prior to edging the spinner to slip.
This was Smith's third hundred of a series where he made 144 and 142 in Australia's 251-run win in the opener at Edgbaston-his first Test since completing a 12-month ball-tampering ban.