London: Steve Smith again proved England’s nemesis on Friday, passing 700 runs in the Ashes series as the tourists reached 147-4 at tea on the second day of the fifth Test.
The former captain has been in imperious form during the tour, with a lowest score of 82 in five completed innings so far.
He was 59 not out at the break, with Mitchell Marsh on 12, as Australia look to wrap up their first Test series victory in England since 2001.
Smith came to the crease with Australia in trouble at 14-2 in reply to England’s first-innings total of 294 after paceman Jofra Archer had removed openers David Warner and Marcus Harris.
Smith, who only returned to Test cricket last month following a year-long ban for his role in a ball-tampering scandal, was watchful at the beginning of his innings.
But he soon found his touch at the sun-baked ground in London, bringing up his 10th consecutive Ashes fifty with a six over midwicket off left-arm spinner Jack Leach.
Earlier, Warner, who was also banned over the ball-tampering scandal, was again dismissed for single figures, caught behind by wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow, as a feisty Archer made early inroads into Australia’s batting line-up.
The opener was initially given not out but England reviewed.
Slow-motion replays suggested there was a gap between bat and ball but the technology picked up a snick and the umpire overturned his initial verdict.
It was the eighth time that Warner had been dismissed in single figures in the series.
Archer then struck again with a 90 miles-per-hour thunderbolt, with Ben Stokes holding onto a sharp chance from Harris at second slip.
That dismissal brought Smith to the crease and he was immediately greeted with a sharp bouncer, much to the delight of the packed crowd. Smith came into the match with 671 runs under his belt in just five innings at an astonishing average of more than 134.
He did not bat in the second innings of the second Test at Lord’s and missed the third Test after being struck by an Archer bouncer. Smith and Marcus Labuschagne repaired the early damage, putting on 69 for the third wicket before Archer struck again, trapping Labuschagne lbw for 48.
Matthew Wade was lbw to Sam Curran for 19 as Australia slipped to 118-4 but the unruffled Smith was playing a different game, easing to his half-century in 91 balls.
World Cup winners England, desperate to level the five-match series at 2-2, added just 23 runs to their overnight score, with Jos Buttler out for 70.
Marsh returned figures of 5-46 on his return to the Test side while Pat Cummins took 3-84.
Australia won at Old Trafford last week to take a 2-1 lead in the series, meaning they will retain the Ashes urn regardless of the result at the Oval....