Smith out as England close to win
Steve Smith was dismissed for just 23 as England closed in on a series-levelling victory against Australia in the fifth Test at the Oval yesterday. While the former captain was at the crease, Australia retained a faint hope of chasing down a daunting target of 399 to seal their first Ashes series win in England since 2001.
But when Ben Stokes dived to his left at leg slip to catch Smith off paceman Stuart Broad, England knew they had removed the last serious obstacle in their victory charge. It was the first time that Smith, who has scored an astonishing 774 runs in seven innings, had been out for a score of less than fifty during this series. The Oval crowd gave him a standing ovation as he walked back to the dressing room in the September sunshine, with Australia in deep trouble at 85-4 in the post-lunch session.
Earlier, England added 16 runs to their overnight tally, with Jofra Archer and Jack Leach the last men out. Broad then pounded in, roared on by a packed crowd, who raised the roof when he demolished Marcus Harris’s offstump in the fifth over of the Australian innings. In his following over, Broad ended David Warner’s miserable series, with the opener edging him to Rory Burns in the slips and departing for 11.
Warner, who returned to international cricket in June after a 12-month ban for ball-tampering, had a good World Cup but has endured a torrid time in the Ashes. The attacking batsman scored just 95 runs in 10 innings and was dismissed by Broad seven times. Warner’s dismissal brought Smith to the crease and he opened his account with a sweet drive through the covers for four off Archer. Smith and Marcus Labuschagne took the score to 56 before off-spinner Jack Leach beat the outside edge of Labuschagne’s bat and Jonny Bairstow whipped off the bails to complete a sharp stumping.
Smith’s demise brought all-rounder Mitchell Marsh to the crease. He was caught in the slips by Rory Burns off a Chris Woakes delivery but was reprieved when replays showed a no-ball. England, who became world champions in the one-day game for the first time in July, are desperate to end a long summer by levelling the five-match series at 2-2. If they complete the win, as expected, it would be the first drawn Ashes series since 1972.