Steve Smith compiled a dogged 102to not out to frustrate England as Australia batted out for a draw in the fourth Ashes Test in Melbourne.
SCORECARD | ASHES 2017/18 HOMEPAGE
The Australia captain followed his first-innings 76 with a resolute 275-ball knock featuring only six fours in the second to navigate his team into a 99-run lead by the time the captains shook hands in the final session, the hosts ending on 263-4 on a listless pitch.
Smith took his run tally in the series to 604 – amassed at an average of 151 – and to a leading 1,305 in 2017 while posting his 23rd Test ton and third against England this winter, receiving finesupport from Mitchell Marsh (29no off 166) during an unbroken stand of 85 for the fifth wicket in almost 49 overs.
England remain winless in Tests in Australia since an innings and 83-run success in Sydney in 2011, but will return to the SCG for the fifth Test having broken an eight-game losing streak down under and ended Australia’s hopes of inflicting a third Ashes whitewash on them in four tours.
Joe Root, on his 27th birthday, had boosted England’s chances of victory at the MCG when he dismissed David Warner (86 off 227) in the morning session, shortly after a brief rain delay, to end a painstaking 107-run stand between the opener and Smith in 48 overs.
Warner had shown tremendous restraint while accumulating the slowest half-century of his Test career, from 161 balls, and moving to within sight of becoming the first batsman to score centuries in each innings of a Test on four separate occasions.
However, the left-hander – who cracked 103 from 151 deliveries in the first innings, hitting 83 of those runs before lunch on day one – could not resist the temptation to go after Root’s part-time off-spin and skewed horribly cover, Warner falling three runs short of 1,000 in the calendar year.
Jonny Bairstow then took a fine one-handed catch diving to his left to oust Shaun Marsh (4) on the stroke of lunch – Stuart Broad finding the nick – as Australia headed into the interval on 178-4 and leading by just 14 runs.
Shaun’s brother, Mitchell, slashed just shy of Vince at backward point upon the resumption but, after getting off the mark 20th ball with a driven boundary off Broad – one of only three he would hit – the 26-year-old followed Smith’s lead with an innings of real patience.
Smith and Marsh had flayed England all around the WACA in the previous Test – Smith completing his second Test double century and Marsh his first hundred during a 301-run partnership – but their Melbourne stand was one of resolve as they snuffed out any chance of a win for Root’s side.
Smith reached three figures from 259 deliveries off Dawid Malan, shortly after passing 3,000 Test runs in Australia and becoming the fifth Australian to score over 600 runs in five-Test Ashes series, after Don Bradman (four times), Arthur Morris and Michael Slater.