Image: Cricket – Australia v England – Ashes test match – WACA Ground, Perth, Australia, December 16, 2017 – Australia’s Mitchell Marsh celebrates after reaching his century during the third day of the third Ashes cricket test match. REUTERS/David Gray
By Ian Ransom
PERTH (Reuters) – Recalled all-rounder Mitchell Marsh celebrated his maiden test century and combined with captain Steve Smith to push Australia to 421 for four and a first innings lead of 18 at tea on day three of the third test against England on Saturday.
Marsh cut England paceman Stuart Broad to the fence to bring up the milestone from 130 balls and headed into the break unbeaten on 100 with Smith on 182, the highest Ashes total at the WACA.
The pair torched England for 107 runs in the session as England’s bowlers laboured without energy and purpose on a stubbornly flat pitch.
Smith was in sight of his second test double-century, having hammered the same opponents for 215 at Lord’s in 2015.
The skipper pushed Australia past 400 with his 25th four, despatching a Chris Woakes ball with soft hands through slip and gully, before punching a straight drive for a single to eclipse England’s first innings 403.
England lost their last six wickets for 35 runs on day two and despite posting their highest innings score in Australia in seven years, they will rue their failure to cash in.
The pair of Smith and Marsh resumed on 314 for four after lunch, with the captain continuing to score runs virtually at will and Western Australian Marsh thrilling home fans with a string of booming straight drives for four.
While Smith nicked behind the wicket three times, his edges fell short of the slips cordon and his innings remained a chanceless masterclass of precision and timing.
Spin bowling all-rounder Moeen Ali earlier removed Shaun Marsh for 28 in the first hour of the day, but that was England’s only highlight of two demoralising sessions.
Two-nil down in the five-test series, the tourists’ hopes of claiming their first win at the WACA in nearly 40 years appear bleak.
Their best hope to save the test and the series may be rain, with showers forecast in Perth on days four and five.
Smith started the day on 92 and moved within a shot of his century with a sumptuous on-drive that threaded the needle between midwicket and mid-on to race for four.
Three balls later, he reached his seventh ton against England when he whipped Broad through the leg side for four.
He ripped off his helmet and raised both arms aloft, pirouetting and waving his bat at his team’s dressing room as a big third-day crowd stood and roared in the terraces.
Smith’s 17th boundary brought up his 1,000th run for the year, emulating former Australia opener Matthew Hayden by achieving the feat in four consecutive years.
Some 20 minutes shy of lunch, Smith gave a rare glimpse of his pads to James Anderson and England captain Joe Root reviewed for leg before more in desperation than hope.
The not out decision stood, however, with the technology tracking the ball well down the leg-side as it raced behind the wicket for four leg byes.
England reviewed for lbw on Smith a second time after lunch but the replay showed bowler James Anderson had over-stepped his mark.
(Editing by Sudipto Ganguly)
Copyright 2017 Thomson Reuters. Click for Restrictions.