Steve Smith defied England's bowlers and the wild Manchester weather to once again rescue Australia, this time in the fourth Ashes Test.

On a miserable opening day to the match in the north of England, where ferocious winds and rain that came in sideways played havoc by allowing only 44 overs to be bowled, Smith was a class above as he and Marnus Labuschagne dug the Aussies out of a hole created by their misfiring top order.

At stumps on the heavily interrupted day, Australia was 3/170.

David Warner was out for a second-ball duck in the first over, caught behind of the bowling of Stuart Broad, and when his opening partner Marcus Harris was LBW for 13 the tourists were 2/28 in the opening session.

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Australia's highest opening partnership of the series has been 13 so the men below are used to coming in early and fortunately for the Aussies Smith and Labuschagne – the batsmen in form – were up to the task.

Returning to the team after missing the third Test in Leeds with concussion, Smith continued his stunning run feast. He piled on two centuries at Edgbaston and 92 at Lord's to create history by becoming the first player to ever score seven consecutive Ashes half-centuries, and he broke his own record at Old Trafford by notching fifty number eight on the trot.

There was plenty of interest in how he'd handle Jofra Archer after the England quick felled him with a vicious bouncer to the neck in London but Smith had no trouble against any member of the English attack, looking right at home as he continued to plunder runs against a team that has no idea how to get him out.

The 30-year-old got off the mark with a glorious cover drive for four and he scored all around the ground, swatting Stuart Broad down the ground through mid-on and cutting Archer with disdain through point.

But his most outrageous shot was the one he played to reach 5o with a boundary through the off side, literally falling over as he stretched out to connect with a full Ben Stokes ball that would have been called a wide had he let it go.

Play was called off with Smith unbeaten on 60 and Travis Head was 18 not out as the left-hander enjoyed a short stint at the crease after Labuschagne was dismissed.

Labuschagne scored his fourth half century in a row since being injected into the series as Smith's concussion replacement at Lord's, putting him in prime position to be Australia's long-term No. 3 after Usman Khawaja was dropped for this Test.

As he has been all series, the young Queensland batsman was brilliant. Anything too straight was flicked away to the leg side for boundaries and anything too wide was crunched through the covers.

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Labuschagne also left diligently when England changed its approach from full and straight to short-of-a-length outside off stump.

But that elusive maiden Test century still beckons after an excellent piece of bowling got the better of him. Craig Overton, who had looked largely unthreatening all day, seamed a ball back into the right-hander, sneaking through a tiny gap between bat and pad to clip the top of off stump and send Labuschagne packing for a classy 67.

Warner's miserable series continued as Broad dismissed him for the fifth time in seven innings. The returning star now has just 79 runs for the tour and 61 of them were scored in one knock at Headingley.

Harris will also be under pressure to fire in the second innings after his third low score since replacing out-of-form Cameron Bancroft in the third Test.

Broad was easily England's best with the new ball but Archer was subdued. Capable of clocking deliveries at more than 150km/h, he hovered around the 130km/h mark to start with as he struggled to build any rhythm on a cold and wet day.

Smith's last eight innings v England
239
76
102*
83
144
142
92
60*