PERTH: Career-best knocks by skipper Steve Smith and Mitchell Marsh gave Australia a stranglehold of the third Ashes Test against England at the WACA Ground on Saturday.
Australia reached a commanding 549 for four at stumps on the third day with Smith and Marsh unbeaten on 229 and 181, respectively, in reply to England’s 403 all out. Smith and Marsh have put on an undefeated 301 for the fifth wicket in 5½ hours.
This gave Australia a 146-run lead and left them well-placed to push for a 3-0 lead in the five-match series and wrest back the Ashes from the Englishmen.
While Smith scored his second double century in his 59th Test, the day belonged to Marsh, who scored his maiden Test century in his 22nd appearance.
Marsh, recalled to the side after missing nine months following a shoulder reconstruction, silenced his critics with a powerful innings.
Following older brother Shaun’s century in Adelaide in the second Test, the Marshes became the third siblings to score Ashes centuries after Ian and Greg Chappell and Mark and Steve Waugh.
Their father, Geoff, also scored an Ashes Test hundred with 138 runs at Trent Bridge in August 1989.
Mitchell Marsh smashed two boundaries in the space of three balls off paceman Stuart Broad to bring up his long-awaited century.
As the ball sped to the boundary, he ran toward the team dressing room in celebration as Shaun rose with the rest of the crowd, including Geoff, to applaud the feat.
Marsh has so far struck 29 fours off 234 balls as he bettered his previous high of 87 against Pakistan in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates two years ago.
“It is an amazing feeling to have a Test century under your belt,” Marsh said. “I had tough and frustrating moments throughout my shoulder rehab when I thought I wasn’t going to be back. It’s certainly worth it now.
“In the whole build-up to this game, I have been a lot more relaxed. and quietly confident in my game because I’ve worked so hard. When you go into a game knowing that you have done everything possible to succeed, then you can relax and enjoy. That’s what I have done.”
Marsh is confident that Australia are in position to force a result and take the series.
“We definitely put ourselves in a position to put our foot on their throat and win this Test match,” Marsh added.
England’s only success on an otherwise barren day came in the morning when Shaun Marsh was dismissed for 28 runs.
He edged an off-spinner from Moeen Ali that turned and bounced, allowing Root to take a regulation catch at slip.
Smith continued to torment England with a majestic innings as he surpassed his previous high of 215 also against England at Lord’s in July 2015.
He batted for a marathon 559 minutes without offering a single chance and struck a six and 28 fours off 390 balls.
The only false shot Smith played was when he lobbed a return catch just short of occasional leg-spinner Dawid Malan just minutes before close of play.
Starting the day on 92, Smith brought up his seventh century in 23 Ashes Tests to add to his 141 in the series opener in Brisbane in Australia’s 10-wicket win.
He reached his 22nd Test century when he flicked swing bowler James Anderson for his 16th boundary in the fifth over of the day.
A 59-Test veteran, Smith, 28, reached 1,000 Test runs for the fourth consecutive year.
The No. 1 batsman in the world, Smith batted without trouble as he took the fight to the England attack on a surface that continues to remain batsman-friendly.
Smith came to bat with Australia in trouble at 55-2 on the second afternoon and counter-attacked in the company of Usman Khawaja (50) and Shaun Marsh, totally dominating the two partnerships before Marsh joined.
The Smith-Marsh attack made the England bowling look pedestrian as the pair went on a leather hunt in cracking condition for batting.
Australia lead the five-test series 2-0 after dominating wins in Brisbane and Adelaide and can clinch the series with a victory in Perth.
Meanwhile, England said scans have confirmed fast bowler Craig Overton has a hairline crack in a rib.
Overton fell over while attempting a return catch on the second day and left the field later in the day complaining of pain. He bowled just 12 overs on Saturday after taking painkillers and his injury will be reassessed to see whether he will bowl again in the remainder of the Test and the series.
ENGLAND (1st Innings) 403 (D.J. Malan 140, J.M. Bairstow 119, M.D. Stoneman 56, M.A. Starc 4-91, J.R. Hazlewood 3-92).
AUSTRALIA (1st Innings, overnight 203-3):
C.T. Bancroft lbw b Overton 25
D.A. Warner c Bairstow b Overton 22
U.T. Khawaja lbw b Woakes 50
S.P.D. Smith not out 229
S.E. Marsh c Root b Moeen 28
M.R. Marsh not out 181
EXTRAS (B-2, LB-10, W-1, NB-1) 14
TOTAL (for four wkts, 152 overs) 549
FALL OF WKTS: 1-44, 2-55, 3-179, 4-248.
TO BAT: T.D. Paine, M.A. Starc,
P.J. Cummins, N.M. Lyon, J.R. Hazlewood.
BOWLING (to-date): Anderson
29-8-85-0 (1nb); Broad 28-3-112-0; Woakes 32-4-108-1 (1w); Overton
23-1-102-2; Moeen Ali 31-4-104-1; Root 3-0-13-0; Malan 6-1-13-0.
Published in Dawn, December 17th, 2017