Australia's captain Steven Smith has left his team-mates in awe after becoming the equal-second fastest batsman to 6000 runs in Tests behind Sir Donald Bradman and alongside Sir Garfield Sobers, and now has the chance to make his fourth century of this Ashes series - another achievement that would place him in Bradman territory.
"It's pretty crazy, I think at one stage they put up all those numbers on the board for biggest Ashes series by an Australian player and I think he might've been six or seven on the list but he's batted two or three times less than some of those guys at the top," Pat Cummins said. "Those big innings he's played as well, they've all been really important. In Brisbane and Perth they were match-winning and in Melbourne it was match-saving, so it's just incredible and I think he's been the real difference between the two sides."
"As bowlers we're stoked he's on our team so we don't have to bowl at him. It's crazy, he prepares the way most other guys do, sit down, get the gear on and watching the game, but he just goes out there and from ball one he looks like he's been batting for three hours already. No obvious weakness, no obvious time it takes him to build into his innings, he just looks from ball one like he knows his game so well, so confident and in great touch. It's great, you lose a couple of wickets but he walks to the crease."
Cummins said that when bowling to Smith in the nets he created unique problems for bowlers with his pre-delivery movements opening up different parts of the field. "He's very different to pretty much every other batsman," Cummins said of Smith. "He moves so much so it's harder to find your target. A normal, fourth-stump ball to anyone else he can hit to the leg side as though it's a leg-stump ball, then the next one you might bowl the same ball and he doesn't move as far and hits a full-blooded cover drive.
"So I think he's just a really hard batter to get a rhythm to, and I think the best batsmen in the world are always the most proactive, they find a way to get off strike, find a way to not let you settle in as a bowler, and I think that's what he's done. He's a seriously smart batsman, he knows what he's doing and how to have one over the bowler."
England's debutant legspinner Mason Crane said the visitors had to keep reminding themselves that Smith was a batsman with flaws and the capability for mistakes like everyone else. "He's played really well and scored a lot of runs but he's only human as well," Crane said. "It's awesome to be bowling to some of the best players in the world, that's why I play the game.
"He's got out I think four times this series so he's not [immune]. He's playing very well, obviously seeing it well, but like I said he's only human, so we'll keep plugging away. He's a key player for them, I feel like if we can get him out and take two or three then we can hopefully get a first-innings lead."