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Player of the Match
Player of the Match

Steven Smith caps epic 2017 with hundred to deny England

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#PoliteEnquiries: Would Starc have woken up this pitch? (4:32)

Jarrod Kimber and George Dobell chew over the events of the final day of the fourth Test in Melbourne (4:32)

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, Cummins 4-117, Hazlewood 3-95, Lyon 3-109)
Live scorecard and ball-by-ball details

The Boxing Day Test started as a dead rubber, and by day five rigor mortis had well and truly set in. David Warner scored the slowest half-century of his Test career and Steven Smith ground out his second-slowest Test hundred as Australia dead-batted their way to a draw that ensured there was no consolation victory for England at the MCG, despite Alastair Cook's monumental bat-carrying effort of 244. But neither will there be an Australian clean sweep.

The day began with Australia on 2 for 103, still trailing by 61 runs. England could reasonably have hoped that a couple of early wickets might give them a strong victory chance. But on the most docile of pitches it took a batting brain-explosion to break the partnership between Smith and Warner, when Warner inexplicably tried to smash the part-time offspin of Joe Root over the infield. Only one more wicket fell for the entire day's play.

When the captains agreed to call it off, Australia were on 4 for 263. They had eked out 160 runs in almost a full day of Test cricket. Their overall run-rate of 2.42 for the match was Australia's lowest in a home Test for nearly 24 years. At the close of play, Smith was on 102 from 275 deliveries, and he had struck just six fours. Mitchell Marsh was on 29 from 166 deliveries, the kind of innings of which his father, the dour opener Geoff Marsh, would have been proud.

Still, Smith's efforts in salvaging a draw for Australia should not be downplayed. This was his sixth and final Test century of 2017, and he joined Ricky Ponting as the only men in Test history to have scored six hundreds in a calendar year on multiple occasions. His century eventually came up from his 259th delivery; not only was it not his slowest Test hundred, it was not even his slowest this series, for Smith had taken 261 balls at the Gabba.

Smith will also finish 2017 as the highest run-getter in Test cricket for the year, with 1305 at 76.76. It is a remarkable individual performance, but this innings again showed how critical Smith is to Australia's results in any given Test. He soaked up any remaining pressure on the final morning and by the time he and Mitchell Marsh had batted right through the middle session, a draw was all but certain.

The session was a much-needed steadier for Australia after England claimed the wickets of Warner and Shaun Marsh shortly before the lunch break to give themselves a sniff of victory. Warner had crawled to the slowest half-century of his Test career, a 161-ball effort that ran completely against type, but he threw his wicket away on 86 when he skied a catch off Root.

Marsh edged behind off Stuart Broad for 4 on the stroke of lunch, falling to a fine catch by Jonny Bairstow moving to his left, to leave Australia only 14 runs in front at the break, with six wickets in hand. It had been a slow-scoring two-and-a-half-hour session for the Australians; the first 14 overs of the day brought only 20 runs as Smith and Warner focused almost exclusively on survival.

And by the close of play their aim had been realised. If the MCG's drop-in pitch was disappointingly bereft of character, it was still only the second draw at the ground in the past 20 Tests. But a little more life to this dead rubber would have appreciated by all concerned.

  • MCG pitch rated poor by ICC

    Australian cricket has been embarrassed by the ICC rating the MCG drop-in pitch for the Boxing Day Ashes Test as "poor" following a dull draw in which only 24 wickets were taken over five days

  • 'It's a shame it's taken until now' - Root

    There was no victory for England, but Joe Root could at least take consolation from a side that had finally competed with Australia

  • Warner tames the beast within (almost)

    There was little in David Warner's career history to suggest he could bat Australia to a draw on a slow pitch - but he has long proved he is more than a six-hitting circus act

  • Relentless Smith finds a fresh ally

    Steven Smith gave praise for his partner on the fifth day at the MCG, as Mitchell Marsh slipped into a supporting role with a mature, unbeaten innings

  • MCG drop-ins under review after bore draw

    Outgoing Cricket Victoria chief executive Tony Dodemaide suggested the ground's drop-in wicket square was overdue to be dug out and remade from scratch

23rd in quick time

110

Numer of innings Steven Smith has taken to hit 23 Test hundreds. Only Bradman (59 inns) and Gavaskar (109) were quicker.

Record breaking Cook

1997

Last instance of a player from England carrying his bat before Cook - Atherton scored 94 against New Zealand. Cook's 244 is the highest score ever made by a batsman carrying his bat through a Test innings

Cook Marches on

11

150 plus scores for Cook in Tests - Most for a batsmen from England. He now has three such scores in Australia as well. Only Wally Hammond has more.

Centurion

32

Hundreds for Cook in Tests - joint seventh along with Steve Waugh. During the innings, Cook also went past Jayawardene's tally of 11814 Test runs.

Cook Down Under

5

Centuries for Cook in Australia. He now has centuries in each of the five big venues in Aus. Cook is the fifth player from England to score 5 or more centuries vs Aus in Australia

Cook comes good

10

Innings since Cook's last half-century. His previous score of fifty plus resulted in a score of 243 against West Indies

100 for Anderson

8

Bowlers from England to take 100 or more wickets against Australia. Anderson joined 4 other fast bowlers to this feat.

Centurion Warner

21

Test hundreds for David Warner- 15 of them have come at home. This is his third century against England and second at MCG.

Wonderful Warner

6000

Test Runs for David Warner in 129 innings- Joint fourth fastest for Australia after Bradman, Ponting, Hayden and Greg Chappel.