Aust on track for series-levelling win

Steve Smith’s 512-minute masterclass and Mitchell Johnson’s two-over assault put Australia in the box seat for a series-levelling Ashes victory at Lord’s.

Smith’s maiden double-century means England must bat for time on days three, four and five of the second Ashes Test if they’re to salvage a draw.

Smith scored 215 to further demoralise the hosts after Ian Bell offered him a life on 50, grassing a low catch at second slip on day one.

Alastair Cook and Ben Stokes will resume on Saturday, but the challenge is already immense after Michael Clarke’s declaration at 8-566.

At 4-85, thanks largely to Johnson blasting out Gary Ballance and Joe Root in the space of seven balls, England require a further 282 runs to avoid the follow-on.

“I played a Test match in 2008 where we made South Africa follow on and they made 3-400,” England paceman Stuart Broad said.

“So there’s a lot of hope in the change room that we can certainly save this Test match, if not put ourselves in a position.”

Broad couldn’t quite get the words ‘to win’ out.

For good reason.

Based on the past 120 years a draw is all his team can achieve in this contest.

With the exception of a timeless Test at the SCG in 1894, no side has ever posted such a high first-innings total then lost the game.

Smith broke all manner of records after starting day two on 129, including his 284-run partnership with Chris Rogers – Australia’s highest stand at Lord’s.

The 26-year-old described it as his greatest innings, a fair achievement given Smith’s incredible run of form dating back to December.

“In the last six months I have got two 190s so it was nice to get that monkey off my back,” Smith said.

It ensured Smith would continue to be mentioned in the same breath as Don Bradman, the only Australian to post a higher score at Lord’s.

“I wasn’t thinking too much about it, it was just about playing each ball,” Smith said of the milestone.

Smith was a picture of concentration, confidence and class until an ungainly and unfitting end, when he attempted to reverse-sweep Root and was trapped lbw.

The No.3 batsman reviewed the decision, as the ball almost struck him outside the line, but ball-tracking replays suggested it was ‘umpire’s call’.

Clarke delayed his declaration until one over after tea, forcing England to spend a 149th over in the field.

“It’s always nice to be able to put the opposition back out there after being in the field for so, so long,” Johnson said.

Johnson made a mockery of those moaning about the quality of the pitch, with Ballance and Bell clean bowled as the hosts suffered a collapse of 3-2.

“We were hoping they were going to come out and play their aggressive brand that they’ve been talking about,” Johnson quipped.

“We hope they come out tomorrow and do the same thing.”

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