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'The Three' block out the boos as Steve Smith's bubble proves to be the real fortress

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England will have scars after this - Johnson (2:26)

Mitchell Johnson says England will be hurting after a poor performance in Birmingham and will need to use the break to reflect on what they can improve. (2:26)

On the first morning of the Test they were primed.

This was Fortress Edgbaston after all, a fortress that has long felt like a football ground; Tim Paine had dismissed, dismissed this as the 16th-most hostile venue in the world.

The first hour was a prelude; only a few lagers had been consumed in the morning. With each appearance of The Three during the pre-match warm-ups and fomalities, the boos grew in stridency and, by the time David Warner and Cameron Bancroft walked out to open the batting, they were occasionally punctuated with thumping cries of 'Cheat! Cheat! Cheat!'

The Barmy Army's Central Command was roughly in the middle of the Hollies Stand. Billy the Trumpet steered the chanting toward songs that supported the bowlers but it was several bays across where the vocal knives were unsheathed at the appearance of Steve Smith.

Eric Hollies denied Bradman a hundred average and - by Jove! - the stand bearing his name was going to deny Smith a happy return to Test cricket. Not by a googly, but by verbal laceration.

'We saw you crying on the telly', they sang, some of them wearing crying-on-the-telly-Smith face masks. Ho ho ho. Take that!

Each day it rose and fell, this wave of mockery and hostility. Some of it was pantomime, some vindictive. When Smith reached his masterful first-innings century, most of the crowd stood and applauded. But boos are louder than claps and so the minority jeerers held sway. Some were clapping and booing simultaneously and so on it went.

Warner tried to win them over by joining in the pantomime when he was sent to field in front of the most vociferous section of the Hollies Stand. When they sang "he's got sandpaper in his hands", to the tune of "He's Got The Whole World In His Hands", he obligingly held up his palms and turned out his pockets and clapped and waved.

Bancroft, perhaps viewed as the fall guy, was spared the worst of the abuse.

And Smith? Well he remained in his impenetrable bubble that, ultimately, was the true fortress of this Test. He just batted and batted. And batted.

By the time he lifted his bat to celebrate his second century of the match the booing had diminished and the applause dominated for the first time. Although, of course, it was renewed with vigour when he was dismissed, having taken the game far out of England's reach. He turned and acknowledged the Hollies Stand as he walked off, the only time he seemed to notice it was even there.

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His wife, Dani, had sat in the relative quiet of the enclosed press box the previous day, anticipating that the excesses of Saturday drinking would bring out the worst; Smith's personal armour does not extend to those who care for him and it's hard to imagine how it would have felt to listen to thousands of people eviscerating a loved one.

As Australia gained the upper hand in the match, their fans - sitting in a large block between the Hollies Stand and the dressing rooms took their cues from what had gone before. "Same old Aussies, always cheating" became "same old Aussies, always winning". The ugliest chant was saved for Ben Stokes: "He punched to the left. He punched to the right. That Ben Stokes he should be inside." It was hardly edifying stuff and brought to mind the thought that some sports end up segregating fans: we don't want to end up there.

It did, however, illustrate the whataboutery that was bandied about through the Test. Whatabout the way Stuart Broad was treated in the 2013-14 Ashes? Whatabout the time cheating Broad (didn't) smash the ball to first slip in the 2013 Ashes and declined to walk? Whatabout Warner doing the same thing now? Whatabout Athers and the dirt? Faf and the zipper? Faf and the mints? Hang on, now you mention mints, whatabout the Murray variety and Tresco and 2005?

They've done their time; they should've been banned for life. Opinion about The Three will probably forever remain polarised along these lines.

It will be far quieter at Lord's, but a certain level of cacophony will surely follow them throughout the rest of the series, although it will just as surely lose its bite if Australia keep winning. The noise may have become drearily repetitive for some who were there each day but many people can only afford the time or money for one day at a Test this summer and will see it as their single opportunity to take a shot. We've paid a lot to be here, they will say, and we have every right to sing and chant and fling whatever insults we please. It also stands that others have the right to consider their behaviour boorish and excessive.

At the conclusion of the match, Smith stood near the boundary in front of the dressing rooms and his post-match interview was broadcast on the PA. The remaining fans in the Hollies Stand struck up the crying on the telly chant. It sounded distant and feeble as Smith smiled and chatted on the telly, holding his player of the match trophy and a bottle of champagne.

When he finished, the fans in front of him - both English and Australian - warmly applauded.

There wasn't a single boo to be heard.