Smith puts Aussies firmly in charge


Latest score: Australia 497-8 dec, England 23-1

It is now customary in Ashes test to record Steve Smith's running tally. Today's 211 takes it to 1197 in his last eight Ashes tests for the most dominant batsman in living memory. Words fail me.

Smith double-ton takes game beyond England

Consequently, Australia are in total control. Never mind Headingley-style comebacks – they're already trading higher than at any point in that miracle chase. Even if they were to score 600, there probably wouldn't be enough time to win.

Whether Australia take an unassailable lead to retain the Ashes may boil down to the weather. Tomorrow's Met Office forecast shows a high probability of rain throughout the day and we'll do well to get 60 overs play.

England could struggle to avoid follow-on

Thanks to their big first innings total, the loss of time may not prove such a handicap for the Aussies. England must reach 297 to avoid the follow-on – a target they've found formidable in recent times.

Only one of the last seven tests at Old Trafford saw two innings of 300 plus and I'm happy to stick with the trend. The pitch did play well, if a bit slow, but 497 was due to a combination of one brilliant innings, missed chances and lacklustre bowling.

Moreover, batting won't be easy tomorrow amid overcast conditions and probably several re-starts. Take on England to score 250 or more 1st Innings Runs at [1.57].

Australia still tipped for the match

Regarding earlier positions, Australia landed the overs bet by passing 425 and have slightly shortened from yesterday's advised odds. I cashed out the first draw position for a three unit profit. Australia now win me 14, for seven risk. No change for now.

I recommended one further bet on Twitter on Test Match End. That was based on a 400 estimate for the Aussies and is now a rank outsider. Not impossible, though, were they to bowl England out cheaply and enforce the follow-on.

Follow Paul on Twitter @paulmotty

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