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30-Dec-2017 06:00:00 GMT
Aus v Eng, 4th Ashes Test, MCG, day 5

Smith century steers Australia to draw

Melbourne: England were denied by yet another century from Australia captain Steve Smith as the fourth Ashes Test ended in a draw.

Smith batted throughout the final day in Melbourne for 102 not out, his third hundred of the series.

The tourists had hope of victory when David Warner and Shaun Marsh fell in the space of six runs to leave Australia 4-178, only 14 ahead.

But Smith combined with Mitchell Marsh on a lifeless, turgid MCG pitch to take the home side to 4 for 263 - 99 in front - when the teams shook hands.

Australia had already regained the Ashes and remain 3-0 ahead going into the final Test in Sydney, which begins on 4 January.

Although England have not won a Test down under since 2011, they have ended an eight-match losing streak and avoided an unwanted piece of history - they had never before lost nine in a row in Australia.

Australia's chances of earning a second successive home whitewash, and third in 11 years, are also over.

Brief scores:
Australia 327 (Warner 103, Smith 76, S Marsh 61, Broad 4-51, Anderson 3-61) and 4 for 263 (Smith 102*, Warner 86) drew with England 491 (Cook 244*, Root 61, Broad 56, Hazlewood 3-95, Lyon 3-109, Cummins 3-117)

When Australia resumed on 2 for 103, Warner reprised the restraint he showed on a rain-shortened fourth day - the 161 balls he took to reach 50 was his slowest half-century in Test cricket.

However, after the left-hander began to score more freely, he played an awful lofted drive at Joe Root's off-spin and skied to James Vince at short cover to depart for 86.

Soon after, Shaun Marsh was brilliantly caught one-handed by wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow off Stuart Broad.

Smith, though, was immovable - patient, serene and eager to cash in on a surface that remained friendly to batsmen throughout.

As England went through plan after plan and begged the ball to move off the straight, the home skipper played pulls and deflections behind square on the leg side, or the occasional drive through the covers.

In moving from his overnight 25, he ticked off the milestones: the first Australian for 15 years to make three hundreds in an Ashes series, the first for 23 years to rack up 600 runs, more than 200 overs faced in these first four Tests.

By the end, he had his fourth successive century in Melbourne Tests and had spent more than 31 hours at the crease during the series.

Mitchell Marsh began with uncertainty, almost driving Broad to Vince at deep gully, but grew into defending with a straight bat and a big stride - his 29 not out came from 166 balls.

In 48.2 overs together, Australia's fifth-wicket pair sapped all life from a contest that was going through the motions long before the end was agreed.

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