Steve Smith was imperious with the bat on his return to Test cricket. Picture: Lindsey Parnaby/AFP
Steve Smith was imperious with the bat on his return to Test cricket. Picture: Lindsey Parnaby/AFP

Time to Lord it over Poms

IT took 18 years for Ashes glory at Edgbaston but a final-day demolition by Nathan Lyon secured an Australian victory for the ages in a match in which re-born Steve Smith started rewriting the record books again.

Lyon had six wickets and was on a hat-trick when the last brick in England's crumbling resistance, a limping Jimmy Anderson, walked to wicket halfway through the day that started with home team hope.

He survived but Pat Cummins got rid of Chris Woakes instead to roll the meek home team for just 146 as Australia went 1-0 and put their foot firmly on England's throat.

Both teams will head to Lords for next week's second Test in startlingly different positions to what possibly could have been expected when the Aussies were 8-122 on day one.

But Australia rocked the foundations at "Fortress Edgbaston" on days two and four then barged through the gates on day five to record a 251-run victory and a first, in any form of cricket, at the Birmingham ground since 2001.

That victory was achieved under the guidance of steely-minded former captain Steve Waugh who is part of the 2019 touring party and aware he's in the presence of something special.

Steve Waugh, Australian Team Mentor, speaks to Justin Langer, coach of Australia, during day four of the Test between England and Australia at Edgbaston. Picture: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images
Steve Waugh, Australian Team Mentor, speaks to Justin Langer, coach of Australia, during day four of the Test between England and Australia at Edgbaston. Picture: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

That something is  Smith who piled on twin centuries in a man-of-the match performance which sent shudders through the stunned England camp amid expectations he's only just beginning.

Waugh labelled Smith, the former Test captain who returned chastened by a 12-month ban but seeking runs, not redemption, a "genius" as he confounded the home team for over two days.

Umpiring gaffs littered the match, and the continued appointments of Joel Wilson and Aleem Dar for the next two Tests could come in to question.

They threatened to overshadow the final day too before Nathan Lyon stole the spotlight with three first session wickets which started the rot for a batting line-up all at sea.

When the Aussie off-spinner removed England captain Joe Root just 10 minutes before lunch, slumped shoulders pointed to the inevitability of a series-starting loss.

England was four down at lunch, seven down 20 minutes after resuming, as Lyon sent batsmen spinning back to the sheds almost as soon as they arrived.

He finished with 6-49, becoming just the fourth Australian to take 350 Test wicket too while Pat Cummins, who snared his 100th, rattled cages and finished with 4-32 as Robin to Lyon's Batman superheroics.

But while Lyon helped guide the Aussies to the drought-breaking win, this Edgbaston entry in the Ashes history books will be dominated by Smith.

Australia captain Tim Paine celebrates with Nathan Lyon after the pair had combined to dismiss Ben Stokes. Picture: Stu Forster/Getty Images
Australia captain Tim Paine celebrates with Nathan Lyon after the pair had combined to dismiss Ben Stokes. Picture: Stu Forster/Getty Images

His twin centuries, a feat he had never previously achieved in a career already entering a stratosphere unknown by so many of his contemporaries, were the ultimate difference between the two teams.

Smith piled on 286 runs in his two innings, the most he's ever scored in a single Test, and the most by an Australian in a match at Edgbaston.

The numbers before and then in this game have earned the 30-year-old "best since Bradman" status. While some want the argument cooled a continuation through the series will put the question beyond much doubt.

Smith scored his 24th and 25th Test centuries in the game. Only Bradman reached that mark faster.

Smith scored his ninth and 10th Ashes hundreds at Edgbaston, only Bradman and Sir Jack Hobbs have more.

The English Daily Telegraph declares Steve Smith the new Bradman after his consecutive Ashes centuries.
The English Daily Telegraph declares Steve Smith the new Bradman after his consecutive Ashes centuries.

Batsmen who have piled on their own Test hundreds were in awe.

"He's the best Test batsmen I have seen," said former English captain Michael Vaughan.

The local pundits have been converted to Smith's greatness, and fear for their team with four Tests to go.

Smith's teammates too smile at the mere mention of his name.

"Great players always stand up when you need them. He has done that in this game … he's someone who lifts the group when he's out there," fast bowler James Pattinson, who also made his Test return in the game, said.

Matthew Wade made his own hundred, his first in six years, and said Smith "makes the game look easy. … way too easy."

Beyond the mere numbers was the more match-relevant matter of Smith rescuing Australia from the brink in the first innings when the Aussie slumped to 8-122.

Then three days later, after his second triumph over befuddled English bowlers, his team was in a position of power, armed to the teeth with bowlers breathing fire.

The day one, 88-run stand between Smith and Peter Siddle showed the character and steel team mentor Waugh, who won that series in 2001, Australia's last in England, was instilling in this new-look Australian side.

Siddle was a come-from-the-clouds selection for many, keeping out of the team both Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood who have 375 Test wickets between them.

Peter Siddle’s impact on the Test was greater than the scorecard reflected. Picture: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images
Peter Siddle’s impact on the Test was greater than the scorecard reflected. Picture: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

Plenty of armchair critics harrumphed when the 34-year-old vegan got the nod and while he only took two wickets in the Test, he challenged all English batsmen and then made those important runs to boot.

The victory was one for the selectors too, brave enough to insert Wade after two years out of Test cricket, a period in which he dropped his keeping gloves and made batting his one and only objective.

He put a first-innings failure behind him to smash a second-innings century of some note, considerable for its fluency, and its firmness.

Wade hardly gave a chance to a tiring bowling attack on a wicket offering nothing on day four, and as a number six batsman it's a situation he could find himself in again this series.

 

Matthew Wade and Steve Smith of Australia pose at stumps after both scoring centuries during day four of the Ashes Test between England and Australia at Edgbaston. Picture: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images
Matthew Wade and Steve Smith of Australia pose at stumps after both scoring centuries during day four of the Ashes Test between England and Australia at Edgbaston. Picture: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

Cummins was given the new ball too, and conceded he didn't start that well.

But he finished like a rocket, taking his 100th Test wicket in the run, and Australia's highest paid player showed he's worth every cent.

A tour game in Worcester starting on Wednesday looms as the next-stop for a few of the batsmen seeking more time in the middle. Cameron Bancroft would be one after an ugly return for the chief villain of the sandpaper scandal.

But then it's on to Lord's with tails up and a 2-0 lead there for the taking. History was made at Edgbaston, more beckons when they get to London.

Ashes dreams are made of this.

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