Australia in control of 4th Ashes test after Smith's 211

MANCHESTER, England (AP) — Steve Smith struck the third double century of his career to continue his extraordinary form in this Ashes series and leave Australia in total control of the fourth test against England at Old Trafford on Thursday

Replying to Australia's 497-8 declared, England finished Day 2 on 23-1 and with any hope of victory virtually extinguished.

That is largely down to Smith, whose 211 — containing 24 fours and two sixes — took his total runs this series to 589 in four innings at an average of 147.25. The only reason the Ashes urn is still up for grabs is because Smith missed the third test, won in dramatic style by England at Headingley, while he recovered from a concussion.

The teams are 1-1 with two matches left. Australia will retain the urn if the series is drawn.

Back in the team, Smith played so majestically in Manchester that he even received applause when he passed 100 and 200 from England supporters who have jeered him relentlessly this summer owing to his involvement in a ball-tampering scandal in South Africa last year.

This series, Smith — the world's No. 1 test batsman — hit 144 and 142 in the first test at Edgbaston before making 92 in the first innings of the second test at Lord's, only getting out after being unsettled by a bouncer from Jofra Archer that struck Smith in the neck.

He is tormenting England. In his last 12 Ashes innings, he has 1,419 runs from a double century, six centuries and three half-centuries.

Smith eventually fell attempting to reverse-sweep Joe Root, England's captain and part-time spin bowler, for four. Instead, he picked out Joe Denly at backward point, 28 runs short of his highest test knock of 239.

By then, Smith had become the first Australian since Allan Border in 1981-85 to score more than 500 runs in consecutive Ashes series and only the third player — after Don Bradman and Jack Hobbs — to post that number in three Ashes series.

England was its own worst enemy on Day 2, which Australia resumed on 170-3 following a rain-affected opening day.

Australia captain Tim Paine was dropped twice — on 9 and 49 — in his innings of 58, while Smith was given an unlikely reprieve after he nicked spinner Jack Leach to slip when on 118. Smith was on his way back to the pavilion, berating himself, only for replays to show that Leach had overstepped — an embarrassment for a spin bowler.

The stand between Smith and Paine for the sixth wicket was worth 145 runs.

England's bowling was sloppy throughout, with Mitchell Starc hitting 54 not out and fellow tailender Nathan Lyon making a run-a-ball unbeaten 26 before the declaration.

Archer, England's pace-bowling sensation, returned figures of 0-97 for his first wicketless innings this series. Ben Stokes went at more than six runs an over off his 10.5 overs, the allrounder failing to bowl after hurting his right shoulder midway one over.

The declaration gave England a tricky 45 minutes to negotiate and Denly couldn't last.

Promoted to opener as a replacement for the struggling Jason Roy, Denly was given a tough time by Josh Hazlewood before eventually succumbing for 4 when he turned a delivery from Pat Cummins onto his pad, the ball ballooning up and being caught at the second attempt by Matthew Wade at short leg.

Fellow opener Rory Burns hung around and was on 15, alongside nightwatchman Craig Overton (3).

A draw is the best England can realistically hope for now.


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