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sport news Steve Smith scores 141 on day three of first Ashes Test

Steve Smith kissed the badge on his helmet, as decorum demands, then thumped the badge on his chest. It was an appropriate one-two: Australia's captain had thrown body and soul into an Ashes innings for the ages, rousing his side and deflating England. Truly, this has been a gripping first Test.

By the time Australia's last man Nathan Lyon was out for nine, Smith had made 141 runs of the highest class and character. At 209 for seven, Australia's unassailable record at the Gabba was looking distinctly assailable. At 328 all out, they led by 26. On such innings do series hinge.

And its value went up another notch when, with England's second innings not yet four overs old, Alastair Cook hooked Josh Hazlewood to fine leg, where Mitchell Starc judged a tumbling catch to perfection. 

Steve Smith produced a magnificent innings scoring 141 runs as the Australia captain helped his country gain the initiative

Steve Smith produced a magnificent innings scoring 141 runs as the Australia captain helped his country gain the initiative

Smith's innings proved the difference between the two sides as he scored the slowest Test century of his career off 261 balls

Smith's innings proved the difference between the two sides as he scored the slowest Test century of his career off 261 balls

Smith was pumped up as he wrestled back the initiative from England with a captain's performance for Australia at the Gabba

Smith was pumped up as he wrestled back the initiative from England with a captain's performance for Australia at the Gabba

Australia then gained the early wicket of Alastair Cook for just seven runs, with Josh Hazlewood claiming the prize scalp

Australia then gained the early wicket of Alastair Cook for just seven runs, with Josh Hazlewood claiming the prize scalp

The pumped-up Hazlewood celebrates after Cook hooked and was caught by Mitchell Starc at fine leg

The pumped-up Hazlewood celebrates after Cook hooked and was caught by Mitchell Starc at fine leg

Cook can only look on in dismay as Australia as Hazlewood celebrates an important breakthrough in England's second innings

Cook can only look on in dismay as Australia as Hazlewood celebrates an important breakthrough in England's second innings

Hazlewood then claimed the wicket of James Vince for two runs as England wobbled at the start of their second innings

Hazlewood then claimed the wicket of James Vince for two runs as England wobbled at the start of their second innings

Steve Smith is mobbed after taking the catch that removed James Vince off the bowling of Josh Hazlewood (left)

Steve Smith is mobbed after taking the catch that removed James Vince off the bowling of Josh Hazlewood (left)

The dismissal had shades of Cook's fatal flap at Mitchell Johnson at Adelaide four years ago. But by then England were mentally done and dusted, already on the brink of going 2-0 down.

This time, there is a game up for grabs. Having watched Smith leave everything short until he was into three figures, Cook was unable to resist the bouncer. It will not be a shot he dwells on in his dotage.

Worse, it got Australia's tails up, and England still trailed by nine when Hazlewood squared up James Vince, who could only edge to that man Smith at second slip, his first-innings 83 a distant memory. As so often, the Gabbatoir smelled the blood of several Englishmen.

In roared Starc to land a horrible blow on the helmet of Joe Root, yet to score and understandably rattled. The sight of David Warner scurrying over to offer his condolences was confirmation that Australia spied their chance. It was the scenario Smith had spent the previous eight and a half hours constructing.

England had not bowled badly – far from it. They restricted Australia to 48 runs in a morning session which produced three wickets, and all told kept them to 2.51 runs an over. 

Since England themselves had attracted opprobrium from the local media for scoring at 2.58 during their first-innings 302, this was a moral victory of sorts.

But it's real victories that interest Root's side, and Smith's tour de force was spoiling their fun.

For much of the day, the Australian reply looked as if it would die a slow death. Stuart Broad out-thought Shaun Marsh with a slower delivery in the sixth over of the morning, before he and Jimmy Anderson each struck in the first two overs with the second new ball: Tim Paine caught behind off Anderson for 13, Starc caught and bowled by Broad for six.

Shortly before lunch, Australia were seven down and still 93 behind. Not since 2003-04 against India had they conceded a first-innings lead here. England prepared to create a small slice of history.

Instead, Pat Cummins knuckled down, and Smith buckled up. As they had done rather more successfully against Warner on the second evening, England tried to dry Smith up, either hanging the ball outside off stump or sending it over his head. 

Stuart Broad reacts as Steve Smith brings up his century during the third day of the opening Ashes Test in Brisbane

Stuart Broad reacts as Steve Smith brings up his century during the third day of the opening Ashes Test in Brisbane

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