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Smith key, Aussies set for imposing chase

By AAP Newswire

Australia must complete a momentous chase to win the fifth Ashes Test but Steve Smith's form will give teammates hope, while the remarkable right-hander will be keen to tick off a career first.

Smith grassed one chance but continued to prove the man of the moment for Australia on day three of the series finale, clutching four catches.

It included a sensational one-handed effort late in the day, when the 30-year-old flung himself sideways and the ball stuck in his outstretched hand to dismiss Chris Woakes.

It will take something special to deny England, who will resume at 8-313 with a 382-run lead on Sunday, a series-levelling victory at the Oval.

But Peter Siddle hasn't lost hope, pointing to how Ben Stokes reeled in a target of 359 in a stunning six-laden rampage at Headingley.

"We know what happened at Headingley on a nice batting strip," Siddle told the BBC.

"So if we make the most of this deck, who knows?

"There is not a lot happening with the ball, so if you're patient like they were then you can build a big innings."

Smith, who has 751 runs at 125.16 in the series after a first-innings knock of 80, needs a mammoth 223 in his second dig to reach Don Bradman's peerless tally of 974 runs in the 1930 Ashes.

A more realistic goal is a fourth-innings century; Smith has posted 26 Test tons but none in the final dig of a match.

"You wouldn't bet against Steve Smith making his first fourth-innings century, that's a start and we'll see how we go from there," Siddle said.

Tim Paine heaped praise on Smith's ability to influence a game from the slips cordon and the crease.

"He's just a freak. We were actually chatting about it out there, batsmen like him seem to always be in the game," Paine said.

"(Ben) Stokes is the same, they're just in the contest and in the game all the time. Whether they're at slip or at point or with the ball or with the bat.

"That's what makes great cricketers, great.

"It was a pretty special catch late in the day after he's been batting for seven weeks straight."