The Ashes Steven Smith

Published on December 26th, 2017 | by Arunabha Sengupta

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David Warner and Steven Smith against Joe Root and Alastair Cook: The differentiating factor

🕓 Reading time: 3 minutes

There are a number of ways in which we can look at the English and Australian sides to compare and contrast. And as the series result indicates, in most of these counts Australia will come out superior across multiple facets. Be it overall batting, the sheer pace of the bowlers or the level of confidence.

However, watching the Aussie batsmen in action on the first day of the Melbourne Test, one does notice a major difference in the sides along a structure that is common to both the teams.

Looking at the English batting, we come across two big names. Alastair Cook and Joe Root. The rest of them are not that reputed or experienced. Well, in some ways, even Root is not quite that experienced in Australia, but we will not go into that right now.

In some ways, the Australians are quite similar in their structure. The batting line up has two big names. Steven Smith and David Warner. Beyond them, the Marshes, Cameron Bancroft and Usman Khwaja are not really established names. A tad more Tests played when we consider Shaun Marsh and Khwaja, but otherwise quite comparable.

Yet, the difference is that the two big guns of England have sputtered and choked and fired blanks And the two Australian stalwarts have been rattling off runs with their willows.

Cook has managed 83 runs in the four Tests at 13.83 in what has been a nightmare of a series. Root has done somewhat better, but 176 at 29.33 is hardly the handiwork of one of the best batsmen of the world.

On the other hand, Warner has 299 runs at 59.80 after his first innings hundred. And of course, Smith is in a different world of his own. 491 runs at 163.66 at the end of Day One, with each knock adding to his exponentially growing stature. He is 65 not out now and no estimate of his score on the morrow can be too liberal.

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Both these pairs were meant to combine as the bulwark of the batting for their sides. Smith became an enormous platform on his own, Warner provided the fundament as well. Cook and Root simply failed to provide anything close to a solid base.

There is a gap between the performances of Dawid Malan and company when totted up against the Marshes and the Bancrofts, but that is not much. The main chasm lies in the huge difference between the performances of the two experienced pairs of the two sides.

The first day at Melbourne underlined how vital the hands of these senior men can be in guiding the fortunes of the side. The wicket was not really a featherbed. Bancroft struggled to 19 at lunch. Bancroft, Khwaja and Shaun Marsh managed 74 runs between themselves in 253 balls. It was not easy at all, especially in the second session against some refreshed English bowling.

However, at the same time, Warner raced to 83 by the lunch interval. Australia sat at 102 without loss at the break. The struggle of the youngster had been all but covered by the flamboyance of the senior man.

And after he was dismissed, there was Smith, once again playing in a different zone, scoring runs almost at will.

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Warner and Smith contributed 168 to the total, and the others in the line up had the luxury to take their time and adjust themselves without feeling the pressure of the situation. At the end of the day, 244 for 3 is perhaps not the big score that the modern-day cricket follower has become accustomed to, but the advantage is definitely with the Australians.

This is one blessing that the largely inexperienced English line up has dearly missed in the series. Also, much of the current scoreline can be attributed to this one factor.

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About the Author

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Arunabha Sengupta is a cricket historian and the author of Sherlock Holmes and the Birth of The Ashes. He tweets @senantix.



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