BRISBANE, Australia: Steve Smith slammed England’s fielding tactics as “pretty defensive” as Australia gained an edge after three hard-fought days in the first Ashes Test at the Gabba.
The tourists had well-researched plans in place for the Australian captain and world’s top-ranked batsman, yet Smith still scored a stubborn unbeaten 141, his 21st Test century.
Australia took a narrow innings lead on the third day of the absorbing Test match before England closed at 33 for two in their second innings, a lead of seven runs.
England skipper Joe Root’s field strategy for Smith was likened to Bodyline, a notorious leg theory bowling tactic devised by England on their 1932-33 tour of Australia, specifically to negate the dominant batting skills of the great Don Bradman.
“I thought they were pretty defensive from the outset,” said Smith, who was out in the middle for eight-and-a-half hours.
“It was almost as though they were waiting for our batters to make a mistake. Unfortunately, four of the top batsmen made those mistakes.
“It felt like it was very defensive. It might be a series where boundaries might be hard to come by. They were pretty defensive pretty early.”
But England paceman Stuart Broad supported his team’s strategy to restrict runs and not let the game get away from them.
“If we can restrict them from scoring lots of boundaries… as a seam bowler your job is to really restrict scoring,” said Broad, who took three wickets.
“If Australia got away from us we’d be sat here saying ‘We’ve put a lot of pressure on ourselves because we’ve let Australia get away and score a lot of runs really quickly’.
“Actually, we’re in a lot of control of this game after three days.
“The less balls we can bowl at Steve Smith and the more we can bowl at the batsmen at the other end, the better for us.”
Broad said he still fancied England’s chances over the final two days in Brisbane, where they have not won in 31 years.
“We are the best placed England side here (at the Gabba) after 30 years, so if we have a good tomorrow we set ourselves up in this Test match,” he said.
Australia have a formidable record at Brisbane’s intimidating ‘Gabbatoir’, where they have not lost a Test match since falling to Viv Richards’ West Indies in 1988.—AFP