Steve Smith is the finest testament to the saying – ‘Technique is a servant, not the master’. He is a demonstration of the fact that, one just needs to develop a technique that would work for him. Is there a better player in world cricket than Steve Smith? As of now, the answer is arguably a ’NO’.
Smith is the world’s best batsman for a reason, and he is a man on a mission. By the time Smith is done with playing cricket, he would have certainly made his name as one of the greatest cricketers to have played for Australia and has been a prolific run-scorer for the side across formats.
Smith has a knack for scoring those difficult runs, he has been the reason behind nightmares for several teams and bowlers. Smith’s early kill at the crease is no less than a boon for any side, and he proved his worth in gold in the series opener at the Gabba, where he played a match-winning innings of an unbeaten 141.
Smith stood like a rock during the crisis and sailed his team out of choppy waters with a tenacious century at the Gabba in the first innings. His innings made a lot of difference in the match and brought his side back into the game. He is a fighter and doesn’t know the meaning of the word ‘quit’. England had no answers whatsoever and couldn’t get the better of him.
Smith scores most of the runs on the leg-side, and his shuffle towards the off-stump helps him score runs easily in that region. But, such a shuffle can also make the batsman a good leg before candidate. Interestingly, this is not the scenario with Smith. His magnificent hand-eye co-ordination and temperament that can be compared to a monk sets his apart. One wouldn’t be wrong in terming Smith as superhuman for the kind of ability he possesses on the field.
Smith looked unbreakable in the first Test and left his counterparts in a dilemma. English bowlers had a tough time against the world’s best test batsman. They needed to come out with a strategy that would work Smith out in Adelaide and eventually they did succeed.
The second Test in Adelaide is in progress and all the drama off the field just spiced up the competition. The onus of making a comeback was on the visitors after a tragic defeat in the first Test. Joe Root got it right at the toss and surprisingly opted to field first.
Australia lost Bancroft early and David Warner edged one off Chris Woakes to the keeper, which made way for the skipper. This was the moment many were looking forward to – Smith walking out in the middle. This was the most prized Australian wicket.
England wanted to get rid of Smith as early as possible to build pressure. They did all they could; Stuart Broad and James Anderson tried to break his concentration with some verbal volleys, but Smith looked unfazed, only for a while. He didn’t get a pleasant welcome from the English players, who were insulted by Smith’s laughing gesture in the post-match conference at Gabba.
Anderson and Broad repeatedly tried to get into Smith’s head as umpire Aleem Dar often intervened. Smith gave it back and was often seen getting into confrontations with English seamers than usual. In fact, there were times when Dar stood between Smith and Anderson in order to avoid any further confrontation and keep the play on. Smith started off on a promising note and looked set for another gigantic score. But, debutant Craig Overton got the better of him after being sledged by the Australian skipper for pace earlier. England would be more than satisfied to get rid of Smith for 40.
Overton scalped his first Test wicket in the form of Smith and it couldn’t have been a bigger wicket than this. Overton delivered a conventional delivery outside off stump, which was a cross-seam and nipped back a bit. Smith was beaten for pace a bit as the ball skidded off the surface.
Smith lost his concentration for a split second, which cost him his wicket. At this level, a lapse in concentration for even a blink of an eye could prove fatal. Smith looked solid, but not solid enough. He often hit back at the English bowlers, which perhaps, unsettled him a bit and was enough for Overton to breakthrough. Seldom Smith has looked so animated and reply to bowlers verbally at the crease.
Former Australian seamer Jason Gillespie also opined that the verbal duels disrupted Smith’s focus and let to his demise at the crease. Speaking to Optus Sports’ Stumps show, Gillespie said, “ They got into his head today. I don’t remember the first Test when he got 141 not out, Steve Smith saying boo to anyone out in the middle and he batted for a long time.”
“Out there (today) within 15 minutes he’s having verbal stoushes, so there’s obviously a game plan from England to stay to unsettle the Australian captain and I think they succeeded to an extent because he was going back at them pretty hard”
The match has witnessed many red-hot moments so far, and one can expect Australia to come out hard on the field, with the ball as well as with the sledging when English batsmen take guard. As of now, Australia are placed in a comfortable position with Shaun Marsh and Peter Handscomb at the crease at stumps on Day 1.