Smith steers hosts out of trouble

Congleton Guardian: Steve Smith, centre right, celebrates with Mitchell Johnson after reaching three figures in Perth Steve Smith, centre right, celebrates with Mitchell Johnson after reaching three figures in Perth

Steve Smith's second Test century bailed out Australia and frustrated England after the tourists had threatened to sneak back into the Ashes series at the WACA.

Smith (103 not out) combined with the in-form Brad Haddin (55) to rescue the hosts from 143 for five and help them close a searingly hot first day of this third Test on 326 for six, after Michael Clarke chose to bat first.

A sixth-wicket stand of 124 took the sting out of England, and Smith consolidated for a chanceless 173-ball century which he completed with a trademark front-foot pull off Ben Stokes for his 13th four.

Graeme Swann previously had a hand in three of the first four wickets as Australia made plenty of their own trouble, despite a combative 60 from opener David Warner.

But just when it seemed Australia might have opened the door an inch or so, Smith and Haddin took responsibility to make sure it was barely ajar by stumps.

There was no onus on the hosts to make the pace on a typically quick and bouncy pitch here, from 2-0 up with three to play.

Yet as Australia's top order sought to dominate, they shot themselves in the foot with some poor strokes.

England struck early, in unexpected circumstances, when James Anderson's speed and accuracy ran out Chris Rogers.

From 13 for one, Warner kept the pressure on with some fierce driving among his eight fours as well as one dismissive six over long on off Tim Bresnan.

But Shane Watson and Clarke both contributed to their own downfall, and even more so Warner and George Bailey after lunch.

Rogers clipped Stuart Broad off his legs for the first four of the match, and next ball glanced fine for another to set the frenetic tempo here.

That was as good as it got for him, because an attempted sharp single next ball did not account for the athleticism of Anderson.

Rogers' dive was in vain, after Anderson moved quickly to his left and transferred to his right hand for a direct hit at the non-striker's end.

It was a bonus wicket, and so too was that of Watson - who tried to drive the previously expensive Broad but instead speared an edge high to Swann at second slip.

Clarke soon appeared in ominous form but left many of the big shots to Warner - who brought up their 50 stand and Australia's hundred with that back-foot six off Bresnan.

The introduction of Swann, however, for one over before lunch brought England the wicket they craved most.

Trying to milk a single into the leg side, Clarke chipped low to the off-spinner's standard man at short midwicket.

Alastair Cook was the catcher, winning the first exchange between the two captains in their 100th Test.

Warner completed his 57-ball 50 soon after lunch, and Smith got off the mark from the 16th delivery he faced when he was up the wicket to deposit Swann into the Lillee Marsh Stand for six.

But a lame shot from Warner presented Michael Carberry with an unmissable catch at point off Swann, and then Cook's decision to immediately replace the off-spinner with Broad paid off when Bailey ducked two bouncers but took on a third and holed out to a tumbling Kevin Pietersen at deep square leg.

Both Smith and new batsman Haddin mis-hooked Bresnan but got away with it on their way to twin 50s either side of tea, as England began to flag in the heat.

Smith's was full of on-side fluency, while Haddin profited mostly on the other side of the wicket.

Both struck the ball well down the ground, and it was with an inside-out off-driven boundary up the pitch to Swann that Smith took the stand into three figures.

When Haddin miscued Bresnan off the back foot over cover but evaded the fielders, it seemed England were running out of luck as well as ideas.

But they dug in to dry up the scoring rate, and were rewarded when Haddin went after a short ball from Stokes and managed only to lob a simple catch to midwicket.

They still could not shift Smith - and when Mitchell Johnson dominated another half-century partnership, day one of a match England must win was destined to end without significant advantage.

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