Stuart Broad content for Steve Smith to get ‘benefit of the doubt’ over run-out

Stuart Broad was content to give Steve Smith “the benefit of the doubt” after his run-out reprieve left England and Australia neck and neck after day two of the fifth Ashes Test.

Substitute fielder George Ealham, the 21-year-old son of former England all-rounder Mark, came close to swinging things decisively in the home side’s favour when he produced a lightning fast gather and throw to leave Smith scrambling.

Memories of former Australia skipper Ricky Ponting having his stumps thrown down by Gary Pratt 18 years ago came flooding back, but Smith was spared that fate as replays cast doubt over the role of wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow.

He appeared to nudge a bail loose with his arm before gathering the ball and completing the run out, leading TV umpire Nitin Menon to spare Smith on 44. Australia added exactly 100 runs for three wickets after the incident, finishing 295 all out and 12 runs in front.

The decision did not go down well with the majority of the sold-out Kia Oval crowd, but Broad admitted his own grasp of the technicalities was imperfect and accepted the verdict.

“I don’t know the rules to be honest. I think there was enough grey area to give that not out,” he said.

“What are the rules? Was it the right decision? It looked like benefit of the doubt sort of stuff. The first angle I saw I thought ‘out’ and then with the side angle it looked like the bails probably dislodged.”

Broad’s bowling partner James Anderson also sought to take any heat out of the umpires’ call, telling BBC Sport: “It felt like one of those where Australia think it’s not out and we thought it was out.

“I’ve not had a proper look on the TV, but it felt like a very close decision. We have to trust that the third umpire knows what he’s doing and got the decision right.”

Smith, who top-scored with 71, accepted his near miss but doffed his cap in Ealham’s direction after admitting the Surrey second teamer had caught him unawares with his rapid response.

“It was pretty tight, but when I looked the second time it looked like Jonny might have knocked the bail before the ball came in,” he said.

“It looked a close one but it got given not out, didn’t it? He was quick! I know now he’s very quick.

“The next one we hit out there we kind of pushed and he was haring round the boundary, coming in at pace. Had I known that previously, I might have just stayed there for the single.”

England will begin their second innings on Saturday morning, with barely anything to separate the sides as an enthralling series enters its final chapter.

There have been two distinct styles on show, with England scoring at a rampant rate 5.17 across less than 55 overs and Australia taking almost twice as long to get their runs at 2.85.

England v Australia – LV= Insurance Ashes Series 2023 – Fifth Test – Day Two – The Kia Oval

Stuart Broad (centre) felt Steve Smith deserved the benefit of the doubt (Mike Egerton/PA)

The tourists have already retained the urn with a 2-1 lead, but both teams have a viable route to victory as they look to finish the series on a high.

“It’s going to be another cracker, I think. Both teams played pretty different on it but pretty successfully,” Broad said.

“At one stage when Smith was nearly run out we thought we could get a pretty decent lead, but the Aussies battled pretty hard there and I think it’s just set up to be a cracking game again. That is the way the Aussies play, they try to see off the new ball, grind you down, and see off a huge number of overs.”

Smith added: “It’s ebbed and flowed the whole way…a few of us got good starts but couldn’t go and get a big score.

“We’re 12 runs in front so it’s pretty much a one-innings game from here. One positive out of the game so far is we have put more overs into their bowlers than the 50-odd ours bowled.”

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