Smith out as England close on Ashes-levelling win

Australia’s Steve Smith was out for 23 on the fourth day of the fifth Ashes Test at the Oval. (AFP pic)

LONDON: Steve Smith was dismissed for just 23 as England closed in on a series-levelling victory against Australia in the fifth Test at the Oval on Sunday.

While the former captain was at the crease, Australia retained a faint hope of chasing down a daunting target of 399 to seal their first Ashes series win in England since 2001.

But when Ben Stokes dived to his left at leg slip to catch Smith off paceman Stuart Broad, England knew they had removed the last serious obstacle in their victory charge.

At the tea interval Australia, who have already retained the Ashes, were 167-5, with the final session of the fourth day to come plus a full day on Monday.

Matthew Wade was not out 60 and captain Tim Paine unbeaten on 10.

Smith, who scored an astonishing 774 runs in just seven innings, was out for a score of less than fifty for the first time in the series.

The Oval crowd gave him a standing ovation as he walked back to the dressing room in the September sunshine, with Australia in deep trouble at 85-4 in the post-lunch session.

Earlier, England added 16 runs to their overnight tally, with Jofra Archer and Jack Leach the last men out.

Broad then pounded in, roared on by a packed crowd, who raised the roof when he demolished Marcus Harris’s off-stump in the fifth over of the Australian innings.

In his following over, Broad ended David Warner’s miserable series, with the opener edging him to Rory Burns in the slips and departing for 11.

Warner, who returned to international cricket in June after a 12-month ban for ball-tampering, had a good World Cup but has endured a torrid time in the Ashes.

Warner struggles

The attacking batsman, who was booed after his dismissal for his part in the cheating scandal, scored just 95 runs in 10 innings and was dismissed by Broad seven times.

Warner’s dismissal brought Smith to the crease and he opened his account with a sweet drive through the covers for four off Archer.

Smith and Marnus Labuschagne took the score to 56 before off-spinner Jack Leach beat the outside edge of Labuschagne’s bat and Jonny Bairstow whipped off the bails to complete a sharp stumping.

Smith’s exit led to one or two isolated boos but they were drowned out by applause from the crowd in appreciation of his run-scoring feats during the summer.

His 774 runs put him fifth on the list of highest tallies in an Ashes series behind Don Bradman’s two entries, England’s Wally Hammond and former Australia skipper Mark Taylor.

All-rounder Mitchell Marsh was caught in the slips by Burns off a Chris Woakes delivery but was reprieved when replays showed it was a no-ball.

But he was out for 24 after prodding the ball into the hands of Jos Buttler at short leg off the bowling of Root.

England, who became world champions in the one-day game for the first time in July, are desperate to end a long summer by levelling the five-match series at 2-2.

If they complete the win, as expected, it would be the first drawn Ashes series since 1972.

Australia are seeking their first Test series win in England for 18 years but only once before have they scored 399-plus runs in the fourth innings to win a Test match, against England at Headingley in 1948.

The tourists won the first Test at Edgbaston and the fourth at Old Trafford while Ben Stokes inspired England to victory in the third Test at Headingley.

The second match, at Lord’s, was drawn.