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Steve Smith Smashes Double Ton As England Fall Apart

Steve Smith has cashed in after a costly no-ball from Jack Leach, scoring 211 as he made a mockery of England's attack before Australia declared at 8-497 late on day two of the fourth Ashes Test.

England crashed to 1-23 at stumps in Manchester on Thursday.

Mitchell Starc took the new ball after a quick-fire 54 not out, while Pat Cummins combined with short leg Matthew Wade to remove Joe Denly.

All of the talk leading up to the decisive clash, which comes with the series level at 1-1, was how Smith would handle mental demons and a Jofra Archer bouncer barrage in his Test return from concussion.

By the end of play at Old Trafford, where the maestro manipulated the field in yet another masterclass that lasted almost eight and a half hours, the chatter was once again focused on comparisons between Smith and Don Bradman.

Photo: Rui Vieira/AP

Smith's pressure-laden knock, which dragged his team from 2-28 to 8-438, was the third double-ton of his Test career. All three of Smith's highest scores have come against England. In the right-hander's past 12 Ashes innings he has scored seven centuries, tallying 1419 runs at 141.9.

No Englishman has produced more Ashes tons in England than Smith, who now has six.

But, as is always the case with Smith's eccentric excellence, the numbers told only part of the story that was Thursday's clinical dissection of the hapless hosts.

Joe Root, who endured a miserable stint in the field that spanned 126 overs, brought himself on to bowl after Smith breezed through the nervous 190s and celebrated his most meaningful milestone since the Cape Town cheating scandal.

Australia's Tim Paine (right) is congratulated by team-mate Steve Smith after reaching 50 runs during day two of the fourth Ashes Test. Photo: Mike Egerton via Getty

Smith's reverse-sweep dismissal to Root said more about the state of the scoreboard and looming declaration than the quality of the bowling.

"England had no idea how to get him out. In the end, he had to get himself out," former England skipper Nasser Hussain said in commentary.

Root earlier raged at his team after Leach overstepped in embarrassing fashion but it failed to fire up the flat attack.

Smith was out edging to the left-arm spinner on 118, only for replays to reveal it was a no-ball.

Smith was on 65 when he bunted a full toss back at Archer, who failed to snaffle the sharp return catch in his opening over on day two, but otherwise was largely in control of proceedings.

Photo: Mike Egerton viaGetty

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The world's top-ranked batsman donned a clip-on neck guard for the first time in a match, having been struck on the neck by an Archer bouncer at Lord's. There was no discernible change in the former captain's approach, as he vowed would be the case.

Smith ducked the best of Archer's short stuff and scored off good and bad balls alike from the express paceman and the rest of England's attack.

Smith shared a 145-run stand with Tim Paine (58), the highest partnership either side has managed in this series, as Australia pursued a victory that would ensure they become the first touring side to retain the urn in England since 2001.

Paine, dropped on nine and 49, produced his highest score in almost a year.