Has Steve Smith let England off the hook?

David Lord Columnist

By , David Lord is a Roar Expert

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    As David Warner and Cameron Bancroft ran off the field when England was dismissed for 227, Steve Smith obviously wasn’t going to enforce the follow on.

    Why not, for heaven’s sake?

    England’s morale was shattered, they were 215 runs in arrears, and sure weren’t looking forward to facing the far superior Australian pace attack at night in Adelaide, when the pink ball was likely to be lively.

    But that wasn’t the only crazy decision.

    England captain Joe Root handed Smith a big bonus when he sent Australia into bat last Saturday.

    Smith and his baggy greens said thanks very much and piled on 442 before declaring.

    Last night Smith returned the compliment by batting again, and Root said thanks very much with Australia 4-53, a lead of only 268 with six wickets in hand, and two days to play.

    Two crazy captaincy decisions in the one Test.

    Sure the Australians are in the better position of the two, but they could have been far better off by making England follow on.

    England was damn lucky to reach 227, they should have been out for less than 170.

    But thanks to Chris Woakes batting eight with 36 from 62, and top-scorer Craig Overton batting nine with an unbeaten 41 off 79, they very nearly avoided the follow on their own right.

    But the real story was Steve Smith not availing himself of the Adelaide night air, and the subsequent increased pink ball movement.

    The carnage Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, and Josh Hazlewood would have caused would effectively have ended England’s Ashes campaign right there.

    Perhaps Smith wasn’t impressed with the trio’s lacklustre bowling to Woakes and Overton to allow England to tally 227.

    That could be the only sane reason for not enforcing the follow on.

    Steve Smith Usman Khawaja

    (AAP Image/Julian Smith)

    As a result, England’s attack thrived last night for the first time – they won’t match these figures for the rest of the campaign.

    Anderson 2-16 off 11 with seven maidens.

    Broad 0-14 off seven.

    Overton 0-8 off ten.

    And Woakes 2-12 off seven.

    They made the pink ball talk, with the four best Australian batsmen back in the shed – Bancroft (4), Khawaja (20), Warner (14), and the skipper for six, all four really struggling against an inspired England attack that couldn’t believe their luck they were handed a lifeline.

    That leaves Peter Handscomb and nightwatchman Nathan Lyon, both three, to resume this afternoon.

    Then it will need two heroic first dig repeats from keeper Tim Paine and Pat Cummins to take Australia over 350 in front.

    Maybe, just maybe.

    If England get out of this unscathed, they can thank Steve Smith, who suffered a rare brain explosion.

    They can count on it not happening again.

    David Lord
    David Lord

    David Lord was deeply involved in two of the biggest sporting stories - World Series Cricket in 1977 and professional rugby in 1983. After managing Jeff Thomson and Viv Richards during WSC, in 1983 David signed 208 of the best rugby players from Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and France to play an international pro circuit. The concept didn’t get off the ground, but it did force the IRB to get cracking and bring in the World Rugby Cup, now one of the world’s great sporting spectacles