Steve Smith out as England close on Ashes-levelling win
Steve Smith out for just 23 when England approached a series leveling win against Australia in the fifth Ashes at Oval on Sunday. While the former captain was in the creases, Australia maintained a slight hope of pursuing a daunting target of 399 to seal their first Ashes series victory in England since 2001.
However, when Ben Stokes dived to his left in the leg slide to catch Smith from pacemaker Stuart Broad, England knew they had removed the last serious hurdle in their victory charge.
It was the first time Smith, who has scored an astonishing 774 runs in seven innings, had come out with a score of less than fifty during this series.
The oval crowd gave him a big ovation as he walked back to the dressing room in the September sun, with Australia in serious trouble at 85-4 in the post-lunch session.
Previously, England added 16-runs to their account overnight, with Jofra Archer and Jack Leach as the last men.
Broad then struck, roaring by a packed crowd, who lifted the roof when he knocked down Marcus Harris’ stump at the fifth innings of the Australian entrances.
In his follow-up, Broad ended David Warner’s miserable series, with the opener who took him to Rory Burns on the slips and departed for the 11th.
Warner, who returned to international cricket in June after a 12-month ban for altering the ball, had a good World Cup but has spent some torrid time in the ashes.
The attacking batter scored only 95 runs in 10 innings and was ou by Broad seven times.
Warner’s dismissal led Smith to the fold and opened his account with a sweet boost through Archer’s four-fold decks.
Smith and Marcus Labuschagne took the score to 56 before Jack Leach out of the spinner hit the outer edge of Labuschagne’s bat, and Jonny Bairstow tore off bail to complete a massive hit.
Smith’s disappearance made Mitchell Marsh more versatile.
He was caught in the slips by Rory Burns in a Chris Woakes delivery but was declared not out when replays showed a no-ball.
England, who became world champions in the one-day game for the first time in July, is desperate to finish a long summer leveling the five-match series at 2-2.
If they complete the victory, as expected, it would be the first Ashes series drawn since 1972.