Mon, Aug 05, 2019 - Page 10 News List

In-form Smith could decide initial Test of Ashes series

Reuters, BIRMINGHAM, England

Australia’s Steve Smith plays a shot as England’s Jonny Bairstow looks on in the first Test of the Ashes in Edgbaston, England, on Saturday.

Photo: Reuters

Steve Smith has singly scored almost half of Australia’s runs in the first Test of their Ashes series against England at Edgbaston, with how he performs on day four likely to have a big say in who gains the early advantage.

Smith was stripped of the captaincy and handed a 12-month ban by Cricket Australia after teammate Cameron Bancroft was caught on camera attempting to change the condition of the ball with sandpaper during a Test in South Africa in March last year.

Bancroft and David Warner were also banned for their part in the incident and returned to Test action on Thursday.

While Warner has endured his third-worst return in Tests, in which he has batted twice, Smith has picked up where he left off.

He rescued his side, who were in big trouble at 122-8 in the first innings with his 23rd Test ton in just 64 matches. His unbeaten 45 in the second innings dragged his side — 27-2 when he came to the crease — out of the mire again.

“If you could sort out a dodgy breakfast for him that would be great,” said England bowler Chris Woakes, jokingly. His side trail Australia by 34 runs.

“We’ll go back to the drawing board and figure out what works best on this wicket,” Woakes added. “He is obviously a world class player, but we need to find a way to get him out.”

That is easier said than done. Smith currently averages 145.71 in his past 10 Test innings against England.

Smith has looked unflappable throughout all three days at Edgbaston.

Even a nasty blow on the head on the end of a bouncer from Ben Stokes late on Saturday did little to unnerve the former captain.

“Smithy is batting unbelievably,” Australia bowler James Pattinson said. “I was talking about great players to the press before, and I said that the best players stand up when it really matters — and he has done that here against England.

“He lifts the group when he is out there,” Pattinson added.

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