Aussies well on top after Smith, Wade tons
THE best batsman since Bradman put an opening Ashes victory within Australia's grasp as Steve Smith took mesmerizing batting to a new level in another Edgbaston masterclass.
History books will need to be re-written after the former Australian captain left England's bowlers bewildered with a second century for the match and further elevated him in to rarified air.
Smith smashed a second innings 142, and with a sterling 110 from fellow comeback kid Matthew Wade, gave Australia an ungettable 397 run-lead after some late lusty hitting and lacklustre bowling took them to 7-487 (dec).
England reached 0-13 at stumps, after surviving seven overs, but a win seems beyond them.
It's a stunning turnaround from the tourists who slumped to 8-122 on day one, and were staring at a huge deficit when England was 4-282 on day two.
But the unfathomable output from Smith, playing his first Test since an inglorious 12-month ban, left England gagging and a first Australian victory in Birmingham since 2001 theirs for the taking.
The numbers around Smith moved from staggering to near unbelievable on day four and made his best since Bradman aura almost unquestionable.
He took his run haul in his past 10 Ashes innings to 1116, at a better-than-Bradman average of 139.50.
Bradman is the only batsman to have better numbers in any span of 10 successive Ashes innings. He scored 1236 runs, with seven hundreds, between 1937 and 1946.
Smith is second only to Bradman in the speed with which he has reached 25 Test hundreds too.
The 30-year-old batting genius scored his 24th and 25th Test hundreds at Edgbaston, his 118th and 119th Test innings. It took Bradman a head-shaking 69 inning to achieve his quarter of a century of centuries.
Only Bradman, and English great Sir Jack Hobbs have more Ashes hundreds than Smith, who now has 10 against the old enemy, as does Steve Waugh.
It was the first time Smith had ever scored two hundreds in the same Test and he became one of only five Australians to do it in an Ashes Test.
Matthew Hayden was the last in in 2002. Waugh achieved the feat in 1997, and said Smith was unlike anything he had ever seen.
"He hits more balls than I've ever seen anyone and when he goes out to bat it's almost like he's in a trance-like state," the Test great said.
"He seems to have answer for everything. He's an incredible player, don't think I've seen anything quite like him and his appetite for runs is second to none.
"His technique is amazing, it's unique, but he knows what he's doing and how to score runs. He analyses every ball and it's like a computer, he spits out the answer."
Smith is also averaging a second-best in history 71.93 in the 97 innings he has played since his first test hundred, also against England, at the Oval way back in 2013.
Smith's 286-run haul at Edgbaston was the most he's ever made in a single Test, and the most by any Australian at the Birmingham ground the locals like to think is a fortress.
It makes for head-spinning reading when you consider Smith revealed after his first innings effort than he "fell out of love" with the game earlier this year when an elbow injury meant he couldn't do what he loves - bat.
He's done little but that since arriving in England; in the nets, in his hotel room, even in the shower.
Every morning at Edgbaston he's rarely been without batting gloves on during team warm-ups too, always eager for more.
Smith has now faced nearly 12,000 balls in Test match cricket. If his return to the game he now loves again is any indication, he'll likely face 12,000 more.
Wade didn't need that many to bring up his first Test hundred since 2013.
Back in the Test team after piling on runs at every level below, he scored 110 runs in just 143 balls as the English attack fell apart.
His effort shored up the Australian middle-order after Travis Head (51) put on 130 with Smith to help steer their team through the morning and towards a day of domination.
Shoulders slumped when the ball did nothing for anyone other than the spinners. But even Moeen Ali looked lost, twice sending balls over the batsmen's heads an in effort which could his place in the side in jeopardy.
STEVE SMITH'S STAGGERING NUMBERS
Smith's past 10 Ashes innings
143, 141*,40,6,239,76,102*,83, 144, 142
Total 1116 runs @ 139.50
2 x 50
5 x 100
1 x 200
His average after passing 50 in that time is 152.9
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