'That's criminal': Disbelief over Ashes star's 'unforgivable' act

England spinner Jack Leach has endured a Steve Smith nightmare after a no-ball cost him the prized scalp of the Aussie star.

It took 16 days of intense Ashes cricket but Joe Root finally hit breaking point at Old Trafford on Thursday, spraying teammates after the unforgivable blunder.

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Root could barely contain his rage after celebrations of Smith's dismissal on 118 were halted by third umpire Ruchira Palliyaguruge.

Leach had got the better of Smith with a well-flighted delivery that took the edge and flew to first slip Ben Stokes, who hurled the ball at the ground in frustration because the game-changing century had already lasted so long.

Jack Leach's no-ball giifted Steve Smith a lifeline. Image: Channel Nine

Delight quickly turned to despair as Palliyaguruge reviewed replays, which revealed the left-arm spinner clearly overstepped.

As Smith trotted back to the crease, Root called his teammates into a tight huddle and unleashed an old-school captain's rev-up.

The 28-year-old read his side the riot act, presumably urging them to not lose focus as Smith and Tim Paine threatened to build an imposing total.

"They were sulking and Root got them together and tore a piece off them," former England captain Nasser Hussain said in commentary.

Smith scored 211 before falling to Root's part-time spin, underlining how costly Leach's mistake was.

Root is renowned for being among international cricket's most affable leaders, having been likened to a "little boy" by Ricky Ponting during the 2017-18 Ashes because he was "really quiet and too shy to say too much" after relinquishing the urn in Australia.

Steve Smith got a massive repreive. (Photo by Alex Davidson/Getty Images)

Did England turn on each other?

Another tense moment in the field, which captured the attention of commentator Mark Taylor, came when Root asked Archer to bowl around the wicket.

Archer's body language suggested he wasn't on board with the idea and the express paceman, who finished with figures of 0-97, soon returned to bowling over the wicket.

"I'm not sure the relationship between Joe Root and Archer is going well," Taylor said on the Nine Network

"To have that visible questioning (from Archer). That is not a good thing."

To cap off what was a terrible day for England, Ben Stokes trudged off the park after suffering a shoulder injury while delivering his 11th over.

Joe Root gave England a spray after Jack Leach's blunder. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

Stokes returned to the field soon after but didn't bowl again.

"If it was very, very serious he wouldn't have retaken the field. We know what a character Ben is, how strong he is mentally and physically," Bairstow said.

There were calls for Root to step down as captain after England were skittled for 67 in their first innings of the third Test.

That criticism was silenced by Stokes' sensational knock but it will likely start up again, especially if England lose an Ashes series at home for the first time since 2001.

"You can't avoid them (critics). You hear them. It's everywhere," Root said prior to the fourth Test.

"What you choose to believe ... is the most important thing."