Asked to chase the fifth highest fourth-innings target in Test history the tourists saw their first two wickets fall cheaply to Stuart Broad, who picked up David Warner for the seventh time in the series, before Jack Leach had Marnus Labuschagne stumped.
That left Smith in place on 18no out, taking his aggregate score to 769, and it may take his most special knock yet to keep alive his side’s hopes of turning a 2-1 lead into a first outright win on English soil in 18 years.
— England Cricket (@englandcricket) September 15, 2019
England resumed on 313 for eight overnight, already 382 ahead, and were swept aside in just 18 minutes.
Broad then took the chance to whip up some early enthusiasm from the crowd, clattering Cummins for a pair of sixes into the leg-side. That brought the psychological barrier of a 400 chase into sight but they fell one short when Jack Leach slog-swept Nathan Lyon straight to mid-on.
The stage was set for the final act of a compelling series, with Australia’s careworn opening pair first on the field. The tourists’ best first-wicket stand of the summer stood at just 13 and although they bettered that low watermark by five it was an unconvincing and brief stay for both men.
Marcus Harris was sent on his way in emphatic fashion, pushing down the wrong line as Broad angled one in and sent off stump cartwheeling in picturesque fashion. Warner remains the bigger scalp, though, with his personality and previous pedigree feeding England’s hunger.
A thick edge took him to double figures for just the second time but Broad instantly recycled a now familiar routine: round the wicket, outside off stump, careless edge, caught at slip.
Historically, the worst return across 10 innings by an opening batsman in one series was 136 by New Zealand’s John D’Arcy in 1958 but Warner’s persistently paltry efforts have brought him just 95.
That brought Smith to the crease, doubtless ready to embark on another epic alongside his protege Labuschagne. Each got off the mark with drives for four before the left-armers – Leach and Sam Curran – introduced a couple of false shots.
Labuschagne eventually buckled stretching to cover Leach’s spin only to be beaten on the outside edge. His back leg tipped up as he over-balanced and Jonny Bairstow was there with a brisk stumping.