Inspirational Smith hits century to thwart England
It was a masterclass of patience and resilience after Steve Smith survived a barrage of short deliveries en route to a timely century as Australia chipped away at England's lead in the opening Ashes Test heading into Saturday's final session.
England dominated early at the Gabba, claiming three wickets before lunch to leave Smith and the Australians in a precious position on day three.
With Australia's hopes resting on Smith's shoulders, the captain dug deep and withstood an England onslaught to celebrate his 21st Test ton to have his team 287-8 at tea and only 15 runs behind.
Smith (113 not out) brought up the first hundred of the Ashes series with a boundary, his ninth after facing 261 deliveries, as the Brisbane crowd stood up and applauded with the match delicately poised.
Joe Root targeted Smith on Saturday, urging his frontline bowlers of Stuart Broad (3-41), James Anderson (2-50) and Jake Ball (1-63) to attack the Australian star with the short ball on a quickening Brisbane pitch.
The merciless approach starved Smith of runs in the day's first session and while he lost Shaun Marsh, Tim Paine and Mitchell Starc, the skipper managed to raise his bat thanks to the support of Pat Cummins (42).
Tailender Cummins emerged as the unlikely hero after he kept the runs ticking over and Smith on strike.
Looking on from the non-striker's end, Cummins watched Smith execute a lovely drive off Broad and turn to the Aussie dressing room in a moment of inspiration as England's fading bowlers looked void of ideas.
Not to be overshadowed by his team-mate, Cummins – who usually bats at number five or six for Sydney Thunder in the Big Bash League – played some fine shots and closed in on a maiden fifty until Chris Woakes (1-56) drew an edge, the only wicket to fall in the middle session.