Steve Smith continued his love affair with batting in England, adding to his impressive collection of centuries on the second morning of the World Test Championship final against India.
Smith already had six Test hundreds to his name in English conditions and added a seventh as Australia moved to 422 for seven during a lively morning session at the Oval.
The 34-year-old came out on the wrong end of a couple of debatable lbw decisions during his recent overseas stint with Sussex in the LV= County Championship, but he was back in a familiar groove as he converted an unbeaten 95 overnight into 121.
Steve Smith Travis Head
The duo that have put Australia in command
— ICC (@ICC) June 8, 2023
As well as driving home Australia’s advantage in the ICC’s showpiece, it also tuned Smith up nicely for an Ashes series that is just eight days away, nudging his average in this country back past 60.
Australia resumed on 327 for three after a dominant first day, with the match progressing swiftly as 95 runs and four wickets were added in two eventful hours.
Smith wasted no time at all in passing three figures, hitting his first two balls of the morning from Mohammed Siraj to the boundary as he cashed in on a couple of looseners.
It had taken him 229 balls to get there, a gentle pace by modern standards, but it was another reminder of his ruthless ability to grind down bowling attacks.
India’s bowlers quickly settled on bouncing the set pair of Smith and Travis Head, who lit up day one with a brilliant ton of his own. He continued his rapid scoring rate to reach 163 in 174 deliveries, but eventually came undone against a relentless tactic.
After trying and failing to pick him off with a variety of bumpers, Siraj finally got his man with one that climbed towards his hip and flicked a glove as Head tried to whip towards square-leg.
Cameron Green fluffed his lines slightly at number six, guiding his first ball for four but making just two more before driving airily at Mohammed Shami and spearing a sharp catch to second slip.
India continued to drag themselves back into the fight, Smith’s concentration finally wavering when he nicked Shardul Thakur back into his stumps with an uncharacteristically lazy prod.
With Alex Carey living dangerously and Mitchell Starc running himself out for five, Australia were losing a little momentum but with plenty of scoreboard pressure already applied.