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'We've got to find a way' - England desperate to stop Steve Smith as Ashes heats up

Chris Woakes admits England are scratching their heads to find ways to dislodge Steve Smith in the Ashes series opener at Edgbaston.

Australia closed day three on 3-124 in their second innings to open up a 30-run lead after the hosts were dismissed for 374 on another absorbing day's play in Birmingham.

Smith, who scored a brilliant 144 to dig his side out of a hole on day one, was unbeaten on 46 at the close and along with Travis Head (21 not out) will aim to extend Australia's advantage tonight.

England are a bowler short due to Jimmy Anderson's calf problem, and Woakes admits the hosts must dismiss Smith early on Sunday on a slow pitch that is offering little assistance to the seamers.

"He's obviously a world-class player and we've got to find a way to get him out," Woakes said.

"I think on this surface in particular, it's hard to force the issue as a bowler.

"The pace has gone out of the pitch so you almost have to build pressure and find ways to build pressure, and maybe attack at the other end and build pressure to make sure the batsman makes a mistake.

"But Steve doesn't make too many mistakes so we've got to find a way. We'll obviously look at a few plans overnight and see what we can come up with."

Smith plundered 687 runs at an average of 137.4 in the last Ashes series in Australia 18 months ago, and it seems Joe Root's side have still not worked out a plan to blunt the prolific New South Welshman.

Root used a leg gully and leg slip during Smith's innings on Saturday to no avail as he desperately tried to find a formula.

"The thoughts are that he hits the ball there quite a bit," Woakes said.

"He's very strong off his legs but we've set a leg-side field a few times and had catches in and around those areas.

"He's a good player at manipulating the field so credit to him."

"We saw how destructive he was at the back end of the first-innings, he scored over half the runs, so it's important we try to get him out."

Woakes believes England are in a decent position to maintain their outstanding record at Edgbaston against Australia, who have not won in Birmingham since 2001 - the last time they lifted the urn away from home.

"It's a well-poised Ashes Test match," he said.

"We're pretty happy having them 30 for three but at the same time I think we probably just leaked a couple too many runs tonight.

"If we can start well in the morning, two big wickets up front could be quite crucial. All of a sudden if you have them 50 or 60 for five, it's a big turning point."

Steve Smith (Australia) celebrates scoring a 100 runs in the first innings - Photo SMPIMAGES.COM / newscorpaustralia.com - Action from the 1st Test of the 2017 / 2018 Magellan Ashes Cricket series between Australia v England played at the Gabba, Brisbane Australia.
Australia captain Steve Smith celebrates a century in the first Ashes Test of the 2017/2018 season. Source: Photosport


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