Steve Smith batted through the entire last day to remain unbeaten on 102 as Australia held on to draw the fourth Ashes test against England at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Saturday. The Australian captain delivered another masterclass in concentration and discipline by occupying the crease for more than seven hours to steer his team out of danger and retain their 3-0 series lead heading into next week’s final test in Sydney.
England briefly held hope of snatching a morale-boosting victory after surrendering the old urn by losing the first three tests when they dismissed David Warner and Shaun Marsh before lunch but failed to take any more wickets as Smith and Mitchell Marsh (29 not out) survived the last two sessions to reach 263 for four, an overall lead of 99 runs, when the teams agreed to an early finish.
Smith followed up his 76 from the first innings to take his series total to 604 runs at the astonishing average of 151 with a near-flawless performance on a lifeless pitch offering no assistance to England’s frustrated bowlers.
Abandoning his natural attacking game to ensure his team salvaged a draw, Smith took 259 deliveries to reach his 23rd test century and his third in this series after making an unbeaten 141 in the first test in Brisbane and 239 in the third match in Perth.
He brought up his hundred after tea with a single off Dawid Malan, one of seven English bowlers who tried unsuccessfully to get him out, raising his arms in triumph and embracing Mitchell Marsh, who was also a model of composure, surviving more than three and a half hours.
Warner, batting with extreme caution when Australia was still a long way from safety, crawled to the slowest half-century of his career, reaching the milestone off 161 balls, before blowing his chance of making back-to-back hundreds when he fell for 86 to England skipper Joe Root, who celebrated his 27th birthday with a rare wicket.
The left-hander picked up his scoring rate after reaching his half-century before mistiming an attempted drive off Root that went straight up in the air and was caught by James Vince at cover, giving the part-time English spinner just his 17th test wicket.
Shaun Marsh departed for four on the last ball before lunch when he edged Stuart Broad and Jonny Bairstow took a one-handed diving catch behind the stumps, but his younger brother Mitch safely navigated his way through the remaining two sessions before the teams shook hands.