Ashes: Steve Smith stands in England's way at the Waca

Media playback is not supported on this device

Pint-sized Ashes: Australia strike back on day two

"He's batting with a cigar in his mouth."

Michael Vaughan's analogy of Steve Smith's chanceless 92 not out on the second day of the third Test underlined, once again, how England are never completely in control of a game while the Australia captain is in the middle.

They might have posted a total in excess of 400 for the first time in the series. They might have removed David Warner cheaply. And they might have the advantage of bowling last.

However, the very presence of Smith - eight runs shy of his hundred and the man whose 141 was the difference between the sides in the hosts' first-Test win in Brisbane - is the reason why England captain Joe Root might have a sleepless night in Perth.

"Smith is 92 not out and he's played with a cigar in his mouth," former England skipper Vaughan told Test Match Special. "He's hardly broken sweat, he's batted wonderfully well.

"England have tried things against him but on a pitch like this, good players know there's runs in it for them.

"England's worry is that Steve Smith could go big - and I mean really big.

"Then, history tells you that if a team is down in the series and goes into the third innings of a Test with parity, negativity can creep in.

"If we end up with a situation like in Brisbane where Australia got a slender lead, England's batsmen have to take the positive option and realise they are ahead in the game because Australia still have to bat last."

Little margin for error

England will be aware Smith has previous at the Waca - he scored 111 against England on this ground in 2013 and 138 versus New Zealand in 2015.

He will resume on Saturday just 20 runs shy of scoring 1,000 Test runs in a calendar year for the fourth successive time.

And with an average second only to the legendary Donald Bradman, he is quickly becoming a modern-day great.

He does have a chink in his armour though. As the heatmap below illustrates, the highest proportion of his career dismissals have come playing at balls outside his off stump. However, as the graphic also illustrates, Smith's weakness becomes his strength when the bowlers err ever so slightly.

On day two in Perth, whenever the England bowlers got it wrong while trying to target Smith's weak spot, they were hit for four (black dots on the chart).

line
Steve Smith heatmap

What's the ideal scenario for England from here?

It mainly revolves around getting Smith out.

"It might be there's parity after the first innings unless Steve Smith goes early tomorrow," said Vaughan.

"I'd still rather be England in terms of runs on the board because there are cracks on the pitch and I've seen one or two balls keep low and others which have reared up off a length. It's just whether England have belief in the dressing room that they can create and take their chances."

Test Match Special analyst Simon Hughes was, however, a little less optimistic.

"I can see England getting bowled out for 200 in the second innings," he said. "So if Australia get a lead of 80 in the first innings, they will win."

And finally...

Dawid Malan marches off after being dismissed
Dawid Malan made his first Test century on day one of the match

You may recall how Middlesex head coach Richard Scott told BBC Sport on Thursday how Dawid Malan would often throw his bat in frustration after getting out.

Well, Malan wasn't too pleased when he was dismissed on Friday...

Writing in the live text commentary overnight, BBC Sport's Stephan Shemilt, who is at the Waca, said: "Even though he made his maiden Test ton and put England in a great position, Malan was still livid at his dismissal.

"A blast of the air with his bat, looking at the ground all the way off, helmet unmoved. His head was still bowed when he made it back to the dressing room.

"I tried to take a picture, but was accosted by a security guard."

Presumably it was for Stephan's own safety.

Top Stories