Rain delayed the start of the third day of the fourth Ashes Test between England and Australia at Old Trafford on Friday. Although a heavier downpour had given way to light drizzle in Manchester, both the pitch and square at northwest county Lancashire's headquarters ground remained fully covered as the clock ticked round to the scheduled start time of 11:00 am. England will resume on 23-1, 474 runs behind Australia's commanding first-innings 497-8 declared, with left-handed opener Rory Burns 15 not out and nightwatchman Craig Overton unbeaten on three. Australia are well-placed in this match thanks to Steve Smith's 211 -- his third Test century in four innings.
Smith, the world's top-ranked Test batsman, missed England's dramatic one-wicket win in the third Test at Headingley with a concussion suffered when felled by a Jofra Archer bouncer during the second match at Lord's. This is former Australia captain Smith's first Test series since a 12-month ban for his role in a ball-tampering scandal in South Africa. The 30-year-old has so far scored 589 runs in this Ashes at a colossal average of 147.25, having marked his return to the format with scores of 144 and 142 that were key to Australia's 251-run win in the first Test at Edgbaston. Even having retired hurt, having been felled by Archer, he still resumed his innings at Lord's to make 92 -- his lowest score this series. This five-match Ashes contest is currently all square at 1-1 and victory at Old Trafford would see holders Australia retain the urn at 2-1 up with one to play. It is 18 years since Australia last won an Ashes series in England.
Ricky Ponting, Australia's greatest run-scorer, hailed Steve Smith as "a genius" Friday after his Ashes double hundred -- an exploit his country's media said was "Donald Bradman-like". Smith has taken his game to a new level since returning from a 12-month ball-tampering ban this year, with his 211 in the fourth Test at Old Trafford giving him an incredible batting average during the series of 147.25. The 30-year-old's 211 was the centerpiece of Australia's 497-8 declared on the second day of the fourth Test. It was his third century in four innings this series following scores of 144 and 142 in the opener at Edgbaston -- Smith's first Test since completing a 12-month ball-tampering ban. Steve Smith had a few lucky chances as he was dropped on the slips by Jason Roy and survived a dismissal by Jack Leach after the decision was overturned by the third-umpire as he had overstepped the crease.
"You hear all sorts of words, 'genius' is one that comes to mind," Ponting told cricket.com.au when asked to sum up Smith's knock, which put Australia in a dominant position after two days. A remarkable innings again. It's his application to what he does. He just doesn't make any mistakes. His concentration levels are obviously unbelievably good."