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England faces tough last day as Australia takes control of first Ashes test

AP

England must bat through the final day of the first Ashes test after Steve Smith and Matthew Wade scored centuries and a rampant Australia set the hosts an unlikely winning target of 398 on Sunday.

At stumps, England was 13-0 — and needing another 385 for a shock victory — after Australia had the luxury of declaring at 487-7 in its second innings at Edgbaston.

The match has turned around entirely after England led by 90 runs following the first innings.

England openers Rory Burns (7 not out) and Jason Roy (6 not out) were at the crease at the end of a fourth day dominated by Australia which had resumed only 34 runs in front on 124-3, reaching lunch at 231-4 and tea at 356-5.

Prolific batter Smith (142) scored his 25th test century to become only the fifth Australian — and the first since Matthew Hayden in Brisbane in 2002 — to register twin tons in the same Ashes match. Smith, the former Australia captain who was removed from the role and banned for a year for his part in the ball-tampering scandal of last year, was caught behind off Chris Woakes.

“I love playing test cricket and I love playing against England. It’s a terrific place to play Ashes cricket,” Smith said. “It feels like Christmas morning every morning getting to come and do this.”

Smith, who follows Warren Bardsley, Arthur Morris, Steve Waugh and Hayden into the record books, passed 50 for the sixth successive time against England.

Smith’s 144 in the first innings rescued Australia from oblivion, and his 142 set his team on course for a victory push. England may look to its famed wet weather for some help but any early morning showers are forecast to clear up before the start of the first session. There is only a 10 percent chance of rain during the hours of play.

Burns and Roy survived seven overs before stumps. They and their nine teammates must collectively see off another 90 on day five, on a pitch offering plenty of turn for Nathan Lyon.

Wade reverse swept England captain Joe Root for a four to earn his third test century before Australia brought up the 400 mark in 96 overs. The recalled 31-year-old Wade, playing his first test since 2017, was caught by Joe Denly off Ben Stokes for 110. Both Wade and Travis Head (51) shared century partnerships with Smith, as the continued absence of England’s record wicket-taker Jimmy Anderson limited bowling options.

England had earlier confirmed that Anderson would not be available to bowl for the remainder of the match. He will bat if needed.

England offspinner Moeen Ali finished with 2-130. On a pitch offering lavish turn, Moeen bowled two moon balls but also spun one wickedly through the gate of Tim Paine.

The day’s light moment came when James Pattinson smashed Stuart Broad’s delivery over the midwicket boundary and straight into a spectator’s pint of beer.