December 16, 2017 / 12:27 PM / 4 months ago

Smith double-century leaves England bereft of answers

PERTH (Reuters) - With his chanceless double-century dominating day three of the third Ashes test on Saturday, Australia captain Steve Smith proved once again that bowlers’ plans are something for other batsmen to worry about.

Australia v England - Ashes test match - WACA Ground, Perth, Australia, December 16, 2017 - Australia's captain Steve Smith celebrates with team mate Mitchell Marsh as they walk off the field at the end of the third day of the third Ashes cricket test match. REUTERS/David Gray

Smith strode off the WACA with an unbeaten 229, his highest test score anchoring an epic 301-run stand with Mitchell Marsh (181 not out) and driving Australia to 549 for four at stumps and a 146-run lead.

Having scored an unbeaten 141 in the series-opening win at the Gabba, Smith’s masterclass put England on the brink of another Ashes surrender with two matches to spare in the five-test series.

Seven English players rolled over their arm on day three at the WACA. None looked remotely capable of dismissing the skipper.

“I told the boys when I got back in last night (on day two) that I was just getting started,” Smith said before exiting the ground to raucous applause.

“Luckily it came off today and (we’re) getting ourselves in a nice position.”

For England captain Joe Root and his senior bowlers, there was a horrible feeling of deja vu at the WACA, where Smith scored a century in the corresponding test four years ago.

Alastair Cook’s team crashed out in that match, handing over the urn before going on to suffer the humiliating whitewash.

England assistant coach Paul Farbrace admitted England had no answers for Smith, their bowlers too slow to trouble him on a flat WACA wicket.

“(He’s) in the form of his life and playing fantastically,” said Farbrace.

Australia v England - Ashes test match - WACA Ground, Perth, Australia, December 16, 2017 - Australia's captain Steve Smith celebrates with team mate Mitchell Marsh after reaching his double century during the third day of the third Ashes cricket test match. REUTERS/David Gray

As in Brisbane, Smith pulled his side from a position of uncertainty at 55 for two on day two, and he finished day three with a clutch of fresh honours.

He became the second fastest batsman to score 14 hundreds as captain, the 29 tests he took bettered only by Don Bradman’s 24.

Smith also became the second player after former Australia opener Matthew Hayden to score 1,000 test runs in a calendar year four times in succession.

He worked off-spinner Moeen Ali to mid-on for a single to bring up his second test double-hundred after torching England for 215 at Lord’s in the 2015 Ashes.

He offered no chances during his 390-ball vigil, with three outside edges failing to carry to the slip cordon.

With frustrations boiling over, England reviewed twice to try to remove him lbw.

But the first showed the ball sliding well down the leg side and the second was cancelled by paceman James Anderson overstepping his mark.

There was nothing England could do to remove him.

“I love scoring big runs for my country,” Smith said simply.

“We wanted to be out in the middle and just keep batting.”

Editing by Pritha Sarkar

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