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Thursday, 18 October, 2018

Australia primed to claim significant lead at SCG

Steve Smith and Usman Khawaja can make England toil

Usman Khawaja and Steve Smith are aiming to bat Australia into a commanding lead
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BT Sport 1, 11.30pm Friday

England start the third day of the fifth and final Ashes Test in a familiar position - on the back foot and desperately trying to find a way to dismiss Steve Smith.

Australia captain Smith (44 not out) and Usman Khawaja (91 not out) helped the hosts to 193-2, 153 runs behind England's first innings total, and they are 1-3 for a victory that would complete a 4-0 series win.

England, who had made a solid start in Sydney before the dismissals of Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow late on the first day, are out to 8-1 for a consolation win and the draw is 9-2.

Sky Bet's runs line for Australia's first-innings is 489.5 - it's as high as 511.5 elsewhere - and the home batsmen should be confident of amassing a significant first-innings lead, despite the pitch offering more spin to England's Moeen Ali and Mason Crane.

This is the third time Smith has been unbeaten at the end of the second day in this series and, ominously for England, he turned his 64 not out in Brisbane into an unbeaten 141 before going from 92 to 239 on the third day in Perth.

He averages more than 70 at the SCG, is bidding for a fourth century in the series, and has found a welcome ally in Khawaja, who will be eager to make up for a disappointing series with the bat.

The left-hander is certainly capable of kicking on - his five Test centuries have been 174, 145, 144, 140 and 121 - while Australia's middle- and lower-order batsmen have performed consistently well in this series.

Shaun Marsh and Mitchell Marsh, the next two men in, have both scored centuries and Tim Paine and Pat Cummins are averaging over 35 at numbers seven and eight.

The decisive factor in this series has been Australia's ruthlessness, contrasting with England's carelessness, when they get into positions of strength.

After an underwhelming display in the drawn Test at Melbourne, the Aussies look back on their game and England may well end up facing an imposing first-innings deficit.

Recommendation
Australia over 489.5 first-innings runs
3pts 10-11 Sky Bet


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Shaun and Mitchell Marsh, the next two men in, have both scored centuries
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