Steve Smith remained an immovable object after Jofra Archer dented Australia’s reply to England’s first-innings 294 on day two of the fifth and final Ashes Test at The Oval.
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Smith (59no) headed into the game with 671 runs in the series and extended that to 730 by tea in south London after notching his sixth fifty-plus score in as many innings this summer and 10th in a row against England.
Australia were 147-4 at the break – Smith completing his half-century by thumping Jack Leach over wide-long for a six.
Archer has struck three times, removing the desperately out of form David Warner (5) and then Marcus Harris (3) in the opening session, before ousting Marnus Labuschagne (48) in the second – Sam Curran also chipping with the scalp of Matthew Wade (19).
Smith and Labuschagne put on 69 for the third wicket after Warner was out caught behind on review and a squared-up Harris edged to slip to leave the tourists 14-2.
But with Labuschagne closing in on a fifth fifty in six Ashes innings, he was trapped lbw from an Archer in-swinger as he missed his attempted leg-side shot, before Curran also ousted Wade leg before.
Warner had earlier avoided the ignominy of four straight ducks but still fell cheaply, with his dismissal ensuring there have now been a record-extending 18 opening stands below fifty in this series, beating the 16 seen in the four-Test, West Indies vs England series in 1934-35.
The left-hander is averaging just 9.33 in the series and has made double figures only once in nine innings, in the first knock in the third Test at Headingley when he battled to 61.
Smith has had no such troubles – although he has been troubled by Curran’s left-arm swing at times on Friday, with the Surrey star having a couple of vocal lbw appeals turned down after curling pitched-up deliveries back in.
England were bowled out 31 balls into the morning session after progressing from their overnight 271-8 – Jos Buttler (70) and Leach (21) extending their ninth-wicket stand to 68.