Smith ton thwarts modern Bodyline, puts hosts in control

BRISBANE • Despite England captain Joe Root resorting to tactics that evoked the much-reviled Bodyline series of 1932-33, his Australian counterpart, Steve Smith, scored a chanceless, unbeaten 141 to rescue the home side in the opening Ashes Test at the Gabba yesterday.

Smith slammed England's fielding tactics as "pretty defensive" as Australia gained an improbable 26-run first-innings lead and then reduced the tourists to a precarious 33 for two.

Root's field setting for Smith was likened to the notorious "leg theory" bowling tactic devised by touring England captain Douglas Jardine last century to negate the dominant skills of Australia's star batsman, Don Bradman.

Smith batted 81/2 hours for his 21st Test ton, his sixth against England. "It was almost as though they were waiting for our batters to make a mistake," he said.

Smith came to the crease with his side wobbling at 76 for four on day two and then shepherded the Australian tail from 209 for seven to reach 328 all out.

On reaching his century, he took off his helmet, raised his arms high, kissed the Australian crest and pounded his chest. "It just meant a lot. Ashes series are always huge," the 28-year-old said when asked about his stirring celebration.

Tailender Pat Cummins gave him fine support with a knock of 42 but Smith alone seemed impervious to the wily plans of England's veteran pace duo, James Anderson and Stuart Broad.

In praising Smith, Broad also revealed his lower estimation of Australia's other batsmen, with only Shaun Marsh able to post a half-century in support of his captain.

"The less balls we can bowl at Steve Smith and the more we can bowl at the batsmen at the other end, the better for us," said Broad, who called on one of his own team-mates to build a "Smith-like" innings today.

England, hoping for a solid start as they began their second innings, lost two quick wickets, with Alastair Cook and James Vince both falling to Josh Hazlewood.

Australia have a formidable record at Brisbane's intimidating Gabba, known as the "Gabbatoir", where they have not lost a Test match since falling to Viv Richards' West Indies in 1988.



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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on November 26, 2017, with the headline 'Smith ton thwarts modern Bodyline, puts hosts in control'. Print Edition | Subscribe