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Smith sizzles on dour day

Matthew Sherry at the Kia Oval and Chris Devine

Steven Smith struck his maiden Test century as Australia strengthened their position in the final Investec Ashes encounter on a rain-shortened second day.

The number five, having resumed on 66, continued his serene progress after downpours delayed the start by three and a half hours.

He ultimately ended on 138 not out as Australia posted a commanding first-innings total of 492 for nine declared.

That score appeared less significant by the close, however, as Alastair Cook and Joe Root saw England to 32 without loss on an increasingly flat surface.

Even the easy-paced nature of the wicket should not detract from the excellence of Smith, whose boyish appearance and boundless enthusiasm belie a serious cricketer.

Those seeking evidence need look no further than his record since returning to the fold earlier this year.

Indeed, the rabbit-in-the-headlights feeling created when Smith debuted in this format as a 20-year-old has disappeared.

His technique remains similar, albeit more defensively sound, a blend of short-armed pulls and expansive drives showcasing power if not a textbook approach. But it is his improvement mentally that appears to have heralded an upturn in fortunes.

That was on display yesterday as Smith reined in his attacking instincts to hit an unbeaten half-century bearing all the resemblance of a classic five-day innings.

The challenge today was to finally go on and get a big one, yet his efforts to do so were undermined at the start of the day, rain ensuring all in attendance had to wait until 2:30pm to see any cricket.

James Anderson immediately added weight to the theory that conditions were good for bowlers, uprooting Peter Siddle’s off stump with a beauty that beat the nightwatchman's attempted clip through midwicket.

Yet even the wobble created by he and Broad could not ruffle Smith.

He unfurled a couple of typically unconventional strokes that often raced across a predictably fast outfield but, in the main, operated within himself.

Indeed, it seemed the only thing that could block his path to three figures was his own nerves.

Remarkably for a man who has been dismissed for 92 and 89 in the last five months, he brought up the milestone in the most spectacular fashion.

Jonathan Trott sent down a good-length delivery and Smith delivered an emphatic response, punching high over long-on for six.

The part-time bowler hit back impressively later in the over, castling Haddin via an inside edge for a punchy 30.

However, England were further frustrated by handy cameos from James Faulkner and Ryan Harris, who crunched Graeme Swann for two powerful maximums.

All the while Smith remained, completing a chanceless innings that saw him become the youngest Australian to strike an Ashes hundred since Ricky Ponting in 1997.

The tourists’ declaration left England facing one of those tricky shortened sessions.

But no trepidation was evident in Cook and Root, who coolly laid the ground work for a significant riposte.

Match Scorecard

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Evening Session 

England 1st Innings

7:27pm - STUMPS - Eng 32/0; Cook 17, Root 13 - Bad light brings proceedings to a close slightly prematurely, much to Clarke's disappointment. That was an ideal start for England in their first innings and they will hope to pile on the runs tomorrow.

7:21pm - A muted lbw appeal against Cook is turned down. England are 30 for nought as the close draws near.

7:12pm - Starc returns and is once again unable to offer any consistency. There is a second four for Root, through extra-cover, when Siddle overpitches but the seamer responds well by beating the edge.

6:59pm - A rare loose delivery from Siddle, short outside off stump, is cracked through point by Root. Cook then pulls Faulkner for four to move into double figures.

6:47pm - The reliable Peter Siddle takes over from Ryan Harris and the first run from the Pavilion End in this innings finally arrives courtesy of a quick single into the covers from Root. England end the eighth over on 13 without loss.

6:40pm - Michael Clarke rarely waits long to make a bowling change. With Starc struggling, another left-armer is introduced in the form of debutant James Faulkner. His first ball is edged short of the slips by Root, who then punches through backward point for three to get off the mark.

6:34pm - Joe Root is beaten in defence by a beautiful length ball from Harris, similar to the delivery that accounted for England’s young opener in the second innings at Durham. Harris duly completes another maiden before the more erratic Starc gets through a largely unthreatening over.

6:26pm - After a maiden from Harris, Starc gets it right, drawing Cook forward and beating the edge with late outswing.

6:18pm - Mitchell Starc, who has had a Hokey Cokey of a series (in, out, in, out, in...), bowls the first over and makes a lousy start. Cook pulls for two before glancing another leg-side delivery to the fine-leg fence. Ryan Harris will share the new ball.

6:12pm - Here come Alastair Cook and Joe Root. We can play until 7:30pm this evening and England will be eager to make a solid start.

Australia 1st Innings

6:03pm - END OF INNINGS! Australia 492/9 declared; Smith 138* - One delivery after Anderson picks up his fourth wicket, Michael Clarke calls his boys in.

6:01pm - WICKET! Harris c & b Anderson 33; Australia 491/9 - Harris' handy contribution comes to an end as he skies one up in the air and James Anderson runs to cover to take a good return catch.

5:55pm - With Michael Clarke hovering on the balcony in his whites seemingly set to declare, Harris finds the boundary via a meaty thump through mid-off.

5:47pm - Cracking stuff from Ryan Harris. He hits Swann for two huge sixes a couple of overs apart, the first over midwicket and the second straight.

5:29pm - WICKET! Starc b Swann 13: Australia 446/8 - Ooh, that was a wild heave. Graeme Swann takes full advantage of being given his first bowl of the day by castling a slogging Starc.

5:27pm - Australia clearly have a declaration in mind. Mitchell Starc shows he is no slouch with a crunching straight drive before Steven Smith pulls Woakes over midwicket.

5:11pm - WICKET! Faulkner c Trott b Woakes 23; Australia 422/7 - Woakes might want to buy his Warwickshire team-mate Jonathan Trott a drink tonight. The seamer's first Test wicket comes as Faulkner, having whipped another four over square-leg earlier in the over, pulls to Trott, who takes a fine sliding catch in the deep.

5:09pm - Faulkner is ready to up the tempo it seems. Stuart Broad suffers as a result, hit for three off-side fours in an over.

5:03pm - James Faulkner's two off Chris Woakes takes Australia past 400. They will still want a few more.

Afternoon Session

Watch highlights of the afternoon session of day two from the Kia Oval

4:40pm - TEA! Australia 397/6; Smith 112, Faulkner 1 - England fail to grab another breakthrough before the break. The evening session could prove crucial.

4:32pm - That's glorious from Smith, who - having been beaten earlier in the over - leans into a cover drive off Anderson.

4:22pm - WICKET! Haddin b Trott 30; Australia 385/6 - The bowling change has worked! Haddin attempts to late cut England's medium pacer but chops on to his stumps.

4:18pm - CENTURY! Smith (198b 14x4 2x6) - What a way to bring up your first Test century. Trott sends down a length delivery and Smith responds by lofting a drive over long-on for six. Wonderful.

4:13pm - A couple of quick boundaries take Smith into the nineties. England respond by bringing on Jonathan Trott, whose first over costs just one.

4pm - Haddin responds to England's failed review by clipping the next delivery to the fine-leg fence. The bad news is that it's started to rain again; we're playing on for the moment.

3:48pm - REVIEW! - England lose their first review as Alastair Cook goes upstairs to check if Haddin has feathered one down the leg side. In actuality, he missed it by some distance.

3:39pm - That's a belting shot. Smith finds a counter to Broad's threat when staying on the back foot and crunching him through the off side for four. At the other end, Haddin adds a couple of boundaries off Woakes.

3:20pm - This is getting really intriguing now. Broad has just beaten Smith all ends up with an absolutely beauty. Chris Woakes then does likewise having been driven for four earlier in the over.

3:09pm - Brad Haddin is off to a mixed start; having got going with a clipped four off his pads, he edges Anderson just short of slip and survives an lbw appeal off Woakes.

2:57pm - And now some news that's a pun lover's dream: Australia paceman Jackson Bird is set to fly home early due to a lower back injury.

2:50pm - WICKET! Siddle b Anderson 23; Australia 320/5 - That's what they call a good nut! Siddle plays inside the line of an Anderson jaffa that moves away and locates off stump.

2:46pm - That's more like it! Stuart Broad finds a little movement away from Peter Siddle, beating the nightwatchman all ends up.

2:33pm - The day's first over, send down by James Anderson, passes with little incident, Steven Smith's edge through third man for four being the only notable moment. There was little evidence of movement despite the ball being just seven overs old.

2:27pm - Jerusalem is playing. I think we all know what that means...

Pre-Play News

2:02pm - The covers are coming back on BUT it is surely only precautionary. There is a very light drizzle...

1:35pm - I've decided to brave the outdoors and can bring good news: the rain appears to have stopped! Now, it's just a case of getting those nasty covers off...

12:51pm - I hoped that, while I was stuffing my face with lunch, the rain would stop. Well, it has not and is not looking like doing so anytime soon.

11:57am - An early lunch will be taken at 12:30pm.

11:33am - I would love to bring good news but, alas, the downpour continues.

11:14am - The rain is now falling steadily and showing no sign of abating.

10:55am - Ah, hope has disappeared. With play imminent, the heavens have opened.

10:40am - The issue at the moment is that covers keep coming on and off the field. For the moment, they're not in place. Let's hope it stays that way.

10:30am - All eyes will initially be on Steven Smith, who is eyeing a first Test century having eased to 66 yesterday.

10:15am - Hello and welcome to ecb.co.uk's live coverage of the fifth and final Investec Ashes Test between England and Australia at the Kia Oval. The tourists will begin day two on 307 for four, targeting a significant first-innings total.

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