Steven Smith\’s maiden Test hundred ensured Australia maintained their grip on the Ashes finale at The Oval on Thursday.
Smith\’s 138 not out powered Australia to an imposing first innings total of 492 for nine declared on the second day as they sought a consolation win after England had already taken the series at 3-0 up.
When bad light ended play for the day, England were 32 without loss, a deficit of 460 runs. England captain Alastair Cook was 17 not out and Joe Root 13 not out.
Australia resumed well-placed on their overnight 307 for four after rain delayed Thursday\’s start by three-and-a-half hours.
Smith was 66 not out and nightwatchman Peter Siddle 18 not out following Shane Watson\’s Test-best 176 on Wednesday.
The overcast conditions, despite the glare of floodlights, were more friendly to the bowlers, especially the seamers, than Wednesday\’s blue skies when England debutant bowlers Chris Woakes and Simon Kerrigan struggled.
Indeed so poor was left-arm spinner Kerrigan\’s first day return of none for 53 in eight overs, he didn\’t bowl at all on Thursday.
It did not take long for paceman James Anderson, who on Wednesday moved past Bob Willis into second place in England\’s all-time list of leading Test wicket-takers, to make the breakthrough.
Anderson bowled Siddle with a superb ball that clipped the top of off stump.
But when seam-bowling all-rounder Woakes dropped short, Smith pulled him for four to go to 89 – the same score he made in the drawn third Test at Old Trafford.
However, there was no falling short of three figures for Smith on Thursday.
The 24-year-old, playing the 12th Test of a career that saw him initially regarded as a leg-spinner who batted, went to his hundred in style by on-driving occasional medium-pacer Jonathan Trott for six.
However, four balls later, Brad Haddin played on to Trott for 30.
An embarrassing post-tea session where Cook set excessively defensive fields even when the tailenders, rather than Smith, were on strike, saw England concede 95 runs in 11.5 overs.
James Faulkner holed out to give fellow debutant Woakes a maiden Test wicket before Graeme Swann, who didn\’t bowl until three hours into the day\’s play despite being arguably the world\’s leading off-spinner, struck with his second ball Friday to dismiss Mitchell Starc.
Ryan Harris hit 33 at better than a run-a-ball before he was caught and bowled by Anderson, who had to run some 20 yards to the vacant mid-off area.
Anderson led England\’s attack with four wickets for 95 runs in 29.5 overs but he was denied the chance to take his fifth wicket of the innings when Australia captain Michael Clarke declared before last man Nathan Lyon faced a ball.
Smith, whose previous Test best was the 92 he made against India in Mohali in March, batted for more than six-and-a-half hours and faced 241 balls with 16 fours and two sixes.
Source: AFP and Agencies