'Unorthodox' Steve Smith magic leaves cricket fans in stitches

Steve Smith has once again left the cricket world in awe but this time it had nothing to do with his batting.

The former Aussie captain has been the undoubted star of the Ashes after amassing an astonishing 671 runs at an average of 134.2 this series.

It's not only Smith's numbers that have captivated the cricketing public but the manner in which he has conducted himself at the crease.

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England's players, coaching staff and many other good judges have been at a loss to explain how someone so unorthodox can be so consistently brilliant.

Smith's twitchiness at the crease, technique and mannerisms are anything but textbook.

So it probably came as little surprise that his contribution to Australia's first wicket in the fifth Test at The Oval was also far from orthodox.

Steve Smith seemed angry with himself after almost spilling a catch to remove Joe Denly. Pic: Getty

Smith has Joe Denly heading back to the pavilion after the opener edged a Pat Cummins delivery to the former skipper at second slip.

The 30-year-old - whose hands are normally safe as houses - saw the initial chance slip through his fingers and hit him on the chest.

The ball then rolled off Smith's forearm, popped out of a snatching left hand, before he finally snaffled it with two hands before the ball hit the turf.

It wasn't pretty, but they all count - as the old adage goes.

Despite taking what turned out to be quite a spectacular catch, Smith's reaction showed that he was filthy with himself for making it so difficult.

Viewers couldn't help but see the funny side in Smith's latest display of brilliance.

England captain Joe Root had some other shaky fielding from Australia to thank as his side went into the lunch break only one wicket down.

Recalled paceman Peter Siddle spilled a regulation chance in the deep then skipper Tim Paine put down a one-handed catch after diving in front of David Warner at first slip.

Root, reprieved on 24 and 25, was 28 not out at Thursday's meal break at the Oval.

Rory Burns, who successfully reviewed his lbw dismissal on four, was unbeaten on 42 at lunch.

Paine, boasting a 2-1 series lead and hunting Australia's first Ashes series win in England since 2001, made two surprising decisions at the toss.

Siddle was recalled but rather than resting spearhead Pat Cummins, selectors opted to drop Mitchell Starc.

Paine also opted to bowl first at the inner-city ground in London, renowned for being one of England's most batsman-friendly venues, then admitted he was "a bit split on what to do".

Root struggled to hide his glee, explaining he was keen to bat first on what Paine described as a strange wicket.

Joe Root was given a lifeline after Peter Siddle dropped a regulation catch. Pic: Getty

"There's a bit of live grass there but it's patchy. It looks a pretty good surface," Root said.

The captain was summoned to the middle after 8.3 overs when Cummins snapped the 27-run partnership between Burns and Denly, which remarkably is the highest opening stand of the series from either side.

Siddle, recalled because of the control he usually offers and a bit of grass on the deck, struggled with his radar and failed to maintain the same dot-ball pressure built by Cummins and Josh Hazlewood.

"He's gone the journey, he's bowled too short," Shane Warne said in commentary.

Warne and Ricky Ponting both suggested they would have batted first, with the former concerned about the sloppiness in the field but also the ease at which Root and Burns scored.

With AAP