Gradually, Steve Smith reaching towards greatness. Yet again, he proved his worth and class at Edgbaston….
It’s not like that England have not studied the weaknesses of Steve Smith, but still in the first and second innings, the English bowlers found it tougher to dismiss Smith. He batted on and on – built partnerships, maneuvered the strike, forced Joe Root to change his field, left the English pacers to rethink their line of attack and the Steve of this era was an immovable object.
Finally, they dismissed him with the second new ball and it was that ball moving a bit late and away from outside offstump, which created so many problems for Smith four years ago.
But by then, Smith had put Australia in a position from where the rest of batters cashed in to challenge England on a testing deck. England dominated the proceedings on the first three days, but again that man Smith rose above the rest to claim a place among the greats of Ashes.
Yesterday, the English pacers did pitch the ball up and moved away on the same line and length, but failed to remove the man, who was in a mission to satisfy his appetite for runs – he was left hungry for more than one year.
One year later, he has returned in white clothes, as a more determined, technically solid and a lot wiser than before.
The Steve of this era is similar to that Steve of 90s, who was renowned for his acts during the crisis periods.
I can’t forget the astonishment of experts when Mark Taylor won the toss and decided to bowl on a difficult deck at Old Trafford in 1997. Australia were trailing by 1-0 and the terrible memories of Edgbaston were still fresh in our minds where the English pacers rolled through the Australian batting lineup in the first innings on a similar deck. Taylor won the toss and paid a heavy price by choosing to bat first at Edgbaston and the English experts were happy deep down to see Taylor repeat the decision at Manchester.
Australia were in trouble as usual. Entered Steve Waugh and the rest is history. One of the finest twin hundreds I have seen by an Australian batsman in Ashes series was that by Waugh on a testing wicket. While the fans of the 90s went crazy for stars like Sachin Tendulkar and Brian Lara, and rightly so – a small number of fans like us loved characters like Steve Waugh, who used to stand up whenever their teams fell in trouble. The legacy of Steve is carried on by the Steve of this century.
It is a privilege to witness two gems under pressure in an Ashes Test and that too by a Steve, who is Australian – possesses the fighting characters of the Steve we loved and respected and always stod up when his team needed.
Greatness has many definitions. From a Sachin fan, the definition of greatness is something else. For a fan of Brian Lara the definition is different. There exist cricket fans like us for whom greatness is achieved when a cricketer delivers under pressure against top sides and their contributions help to create an impact – whenever they rise to the occasion, their team wins. Is Steve Smith achieving such greatness? Perhaps, he has already achieved that. Perhaps, the best is yet to come. Perhaps, still, a long way to go.