England 374 and 13 for 0 (Burns 7*, Roy*) need 385 more runs to beat Australia 284 and 487 for 7 dec (Smith 142, Wade 110, Head 51)

For the second time in four days Steven Smith wrote himself a place in Ashes folklore, while Matthew Wade completed a comeback story of his own as Australia enjoyed utter dominance with the bat to leave them as the only team with a chance of victory at Edgbaston.

Smith became just the fifth Australian to hit twin centuries in an Ashes Test as his match took on even greater proportions of greatness. Wade then cantered to a career-best 110, his third Test hundred and first for six-and-a-half-years, to set up Australia’s declaration late in the evening session, after some fun from James Pattinson and Pat Cummins, leaving England needing a notional 398 in 97 overs.

Rory Burns and Jason Roy made it through seven demanding overs under gloomy skies with Nathan Lyon given the new ball on a responsive surface. There was more than enough to put a smile on his face at the potential of what’s on offer. Meanwhile, by surviving to resume in the morning, Burns put himself on the list of players who will have batted on all five days of a Test barring a washout. England would probably take that, but the forecast was largely fine.

Well before the openers emerged a draw was England’s best hope before heading to Lord’s, which was a quite remarkable change of fortune from midway through the opening day when Australia were 122 for 8 and starring at another Edgbaston horror show. It was Smith, with help from the tail, who turned the tables then and on Sunday it was Smith who pulled Australia into a strong position before Wade made it impregnable.

Smith did the groundwork alongside Travis Head, who made a compact half-century, in a stand of 130 for the fourth wicket which took Australia from 15 behind to 115 in front. However, when Head edged Ben Stokes, England having waited 23 overs for a breakthrough on the fourth morning, there was still plenty of work to do. The stand of 126 between Smith and Wade deflated England’s depleted attack. Stuart Broad had started promisingly, but Moeen Ali had a day to forget, which gave Joe Root a massive problem as he lacked control and wicket-taking threat on a surface aiding spin.

Moeen had been handed the first over of the day and it included the opening delivery grubbing at Smith as well as a full toss that flew over his head that he tried to swat away and seemed annoyed that he hadn’t. There was the occasional promising sign, such as when one spun sharply to beat Head, but Moeen couldn’t string together consistent overs.

Root and Joe Denly bowled 26 overs between them, with Denly’s legspin at times looking the most threatening of England’s options and he should have had Head stumped on 46 but Jonny Bairstow couldn’t stay low in his stance to gather the ball. That was not overly costly in terms of runs, but with the ball not swinging and the pitch slow England lacked inspiration.

Chris Woakes only bowled seven overs in the day but was the man to finally dislodge Smith for 142, driving at the second new ball to leave his match tally 286 runs – just the fourth time a batsman has made two scores over 140 in a Test. Having started the day on 46 the half-century arrived early and any thought England would have found a magical formula overnight went out the window. He went to lunch on 98 and in the second over after the break drove Broad imperiously through the covers. This time the celebrations were a touch more subdued: he was just back doing what he loves.

When Smith fell Australia’s lead was 241 and England might have had one final hope if the new ball had scuttled the lower order, but there was not enough left in the tank of the seamers. Root was back on with the ball six overs old, which allowed Wade and Tim Paine to pretty much do as they pleased.

Where Smith had been methodical in everything he did, Wade was more attacking from the outset – the method which has served him so well during prolific domestic and Australia A form. He took advantage of some friendly half-volleys from Denly to get his innings going and did not have to contend with the swing that troubled him on the first day. Early in his innings he was bringing out the reverse sweep although Root did beat him on occasion, which rather went to highlight Moeen’s problems.

On 69, Wade was saved by the DRS when given lbw to Broad, another poor decision from Joel Wilson given it was the hard new ball and had struck Wade above the pad. It was fitting that such an enterprising century was reached with a reverse sweep and Wade embraced his captain, and Tasmania team-mate, Paine in a moment of significance for both men who find themselves in positions they could scarcely have imagined.

The pair added 76 in 13 overs as England largely abandoned hope of bowling Australia out. Stokes hurled himself into a big-hearted seven-over spell and eventually had Wade caught at deep backward square leg, then Paine fell in the next over to a ripping offbreak from Moeen that spun through the gate. While that was a boost for Moeen, it probably did more good for the Australian dressing room.

The leather-chasing wasn’t over either as Pattinson avoided a pair and enjoyed the freedom to play his shots. One, in particular, will have given him great satisfaction when he launched Nottinghamshire team-mate Broad high over long-on and he also clobbered the last ball of the innings into the stands. It was a chastening day for England, but what happens on Monday could have an even greater bearing on the series.



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