Steve Smith and umpire Joel Wilson during play in Birmingham.
Steve Smith and umpire Joel Wilson during play in Birmingham.

Did Steve Smith overstep his mark?

Australia leads by 34 runs and will aim to set England a daunting fourth innings chase as the first Ashes Test wears on.

England was bowled out for 374 in its first dig - a lead of 90 - and when bad light stopped play on day three the Aussies were 3/124.

Here are all the talking points from the day's play.


The captaincy itch was back for Steve Smith.
The captaincy itch was back for Steve Smith.


Steve Smith was mocked by England fans for appearing to scratch his captaincy itch in Birmingham.

As Stuart Broad and Chris Woakes frustrated the Aussies by adding valuable lower order runs, the former Aussie skipper couldn't help but manipulate the field to his liking.

At one stage while Nathan Lyon was bowling, Smith gestured for Matthew Wade to move finer at deep backward square leg and guided Travis Head exactly where he wanted at deep point.

The action didn't escape eagle-eyed English cricket fans and journalists who noted Smith's actions came despite him not being allowed to hold a leadership position in Australian cricket until one year after the expiry of his ball tampering ban.

It's why, although he has since returned to the national team, the 30-year-old wasn't able to slot back into the side as captain as Tim Paine remains in charge.

Speaking after play James Pattinson said it was a huge help to have Smith's cricket smarts and experience on the field even if he can't hold an official leadership position, and Paine likes to consult players around him about the best moves to make.

Smith can hardly be criticised for helping set fields though. He may not be allowed to captain just yet but there are no rules against him helping Paine when his superior asks for it.

blockquote class="twitter-tweet">

He might not have the ‘c’ next to his name, but Steve Smith sure does look like he’s calling a few shots out there.

The cameras are focused on him and what he’s doing more often than Tim Paine, our actual captain 🤷🏽‍♂️ #Ashes #TestCricket

— Adam Hayward (@Hayward_AdamK) August 3, 2019



Former players united to condemn Australia for letting the game get away from it as England's lower order frustrated the visitors after a middle order collapse.

Australia dominated the first session, taking 4/18 to reduce England to 8/300 as it looked like keeping England's first innings lead in check. But fast bowlers Stuart Broad and Chris Woakes combined to add some valuable runs that may yet prove to be the difference between winning and losing.

The pair combined for a 65-run, ninth wicket partnership before Broad was eventually bounced out for 29, caught hooking Pat Cummins straight to fine leg while Woakes was unbeaten on 37.

Former England captains Nasser Hussain and Michael Vaughan, along with Aussie legend Shane Warne, were all dumbfounded Australia took so long to pepper Broad with sustained short stuff.

Broad struggles when facing chin music but apart from the odd bouncer, he didn't have too much work to do off the back foot as the Aussies focused on bowling a fuller length for much of his innings.

It allowed Broad to chew up 67 balls while making his vital contribution and Vaughan said he was "staggered" Tim Paine didn't instruct his fast men to hammer their opposing quick with bouncers.

Commentating for Sky Sports, Hussain said: "I am amazed they didn't go hard at him early enough."

Warne added: "I can't believe they haven't bowled consistent short balls."

James Pattinson said the slowness of the wicket wasn't conducive to bowling short and suggested the plan was initially to bowl to the tail the way they would bowl to the top order rather than just unleash a bouncer barrage.

"We were trying to do it (bowl short) early, the ball just wasn't getting up," Pattinson said. "Once we figured out we had to bowl it a little bit shorter and almost hit you on the toe it probably paid off.

"That's something we can probably look upon doing earlier in his innings when he comes out.

"In the past over here sometimes we've attacked too much and Broad and those types of people have scored quite quickly and taken the game away from us a little bit."


The umpiring has been the talk of the Test and there was another reason for fans to take aim at the officiating when Joel Wilson missed an edge from David Warner.

Facing Stuart Broad, Warner shaped to play at a delivery that angled in and seamed away but tried to leave it at the last second. Wilson thought the opener withdrew his bat in time, rejecting England's appeal for caught behind.

Warner stood his ground but Joe Root reviewed the decision and there was no doubt the ball caught Warner's bat on its way through to wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow.


David Warner and Cameron Bancroft both completed miserable returns to the Test arena as they made their long awaited comebacks from their ball tampering bans.

The duo's reintroduction to the longest format should have strengthened Australia's top order but it was brittle in both innings as Warner and Bancroft combined for just 25 runs between them for the match.

After being given out LBW for two in the first innings, Warner edged Stuart Broad behind for eight in his second dig and even though the umpire was prepared to let him get away with it, Joe Root and the DRS wasn't.

Bancroft looked shaky in his second outing to the middle and surrendered meekly, tucking off-spinner Moeen Ali to bat pad for seven after being caught in the slips for eight in the first innings.

Warner's spot is secure but Bancroft is under pressure to show he deserves to open the batting for the remainder of the series. Joe Burns opened in Australia's last Test against Sri Lanka and scored 180 but he wasn't even picked in the squad, so the only real challenge will come from Marcus Harris, who played all six Tests over the Australian summer.

Harris showed plenty of promise in his introduction to Test cricket without making a really big score and can consider himself unlucky to be relegated to drinks-carrying duties while selectors opted to start Bancroft in Birmingham.

The West Australian's Test record before coming to the UK was modest and it obviously hasn't improved. In eight Tests he'd scored just three half centuries and averaged less than 31.

If Bancroft dishes up numbers like those he may not find himself in the team come the final Test at The Oval.

It hasn’t been a pretty Test for Warner.
It hasn’t been a pretty Test for Warner.


England suffered some batting wobbles of its own on day three, losing wickets in a clump in the morning session and the form of a couple of players continues to be a worry.

Heading into the Ashes there were concerns about the top order but Rory Burns shut them down with his first Test ton. Instead, Moeen Ali and Jonny Bairstow's lean runs with the willow continued.

Bairstow is averaging less than 25 in Tests since the start of the 2018 English summer and Ali's form has fallen off a cliff. In his last eight Tests he's averaged a paltry 11.7.

News Corp Australia

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