'He'll bat as long as he needs to' - Australia marvel over Steve Smith after Boxing Day Test draw

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Steve Smith has crawled his way to a painstaking 23rd Test century to crush England's hopes of claiming a dead-rubber Ashes victory in Melbourne.

The Australian skipper spent more than seven hours at the crease before raising his bat for the third time of the series after tea on day five of the fourth Test at the MCG.

Smith and England counterpart Joe Root shook hands a short time later to declare the match a draw.

Australia were 4-263 at the close of play, leading England by 99 runs.

Smith spent 437 minutes at the crease, faced 275 balls and struck just six fours as he looked to deny England any chance of victory.

It was still only the second-slowest century of not just his career but also the series - he brought up his ton off 258 balls, having done so during the first Test in Brisbane off 261.

With 604 runs from the first four Tests, Smith became the seventh Australian to pass the 600-run mark in an Ashes series.

Another ton in Sydney would rank him alongside Don Bradman, Wally Hammond and Herbert Sutcliffe for the most centuries in an Ashes series.

"He's been brilliant, no doubt about it," Smith's predecessor Michael Clarke said in the Nine Network commentary box.

"You see that hunger even today, the way he's played. Just loves batting. He loves it as much as anyone I ever played with."

Smith's determination to knuckle down became especially important after David Warner threw his wicket away on 86.

"It's a sign of discipline ... Steve Smith showed everyone that he'll bat as long as he needs to, and be as patient as he needs to, to help his team not lose a Test match," Clarke added.

"It's probably an example of what sets him apart from everybody else. He's a class above everybody else in international cricket in this format."

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