A supreme legacy, an unmatched reign, an unorthodox technique, a run-machine and perhaps the greatest modern day test batsman ever born, Steve Smith has taken the cricketing world by storm over the last decade. ‘Smudge’ as he is fondly called, has been impeccable across all countries and has brought up his A game consistently. He came into the side only as a leg spinner in 2010 against Pakistan. But with time, his leg spin has only remained to be one of his lesser utilized skills. Steve Smith has led Australia’s charge with the bat for almost a decade. He has continued to prove his worth time and time again, giving a testimony to his innate cricketing ability, passion, love and dedication towards the sport. Through ups and downs, through criticism and applause, through brain-fades and masterstrokes, through career bans and leadership, Steve Smith has indeed risen back from ‘ashes’ to ‘Ashes’.
As the Australian maestro turns 31, we thought of celebrating the moment with 5 of his best Test knocks ever. Curating these performances from his unending list of geniuses has been next to impossible, but we hope of doing this bit enough justice.
211 vs England, Old Trafford 2019:
The trail that led to this innings makes it even more interesting. Steve Smith had just come off the one-year ban, had scored twin hundreds in the first test but saw himself hit hard by a Jofra Archer bouncer, not once but twice. It forced him to miss the third Test. The spiking up of the Archer-Smith encounter were the deeds of the media and Steve Smith 2.0 was all in readiness to tackle everything that came his way. Mind you, he talked only with the bat.
Down 28/2 in the first innings, Steve Smith in company of his ‘best-mate’ Labuschagne led Australia’s revival. With seemingly zero backlog and with absolute ease, Smith negated the threat of short deliveries, came down the pitch to the spinners and drove extravagantly all around to bring yet another double hundred against England. It was his third against the arch-rivals, also third of his international career. A couple of half chances facilitated his dominance but none bothered due course.Go down, hang in there, irritate the bowers with unusual and weird defensive poses, hit effective, yet unorthodox cricketing shots, sink in to the well deserved applause and calmly lead your team to a victory, Steve Smith made it all look like an uncontrollable pleasing happenstance.
109 vs India, Pune 2017:
They say a batsman is tested the best in foreign conditions and for everyone else, the Indian subcontinent is no less than a battle for survival. When Steve Smith’s Australia landed to play India in 2017, they had lost as many as nine consecutive test matches in Asia. Moreover, their counterparts India had been on a 19-match unbeaten streak. A win at Pune was important, not only to put Indians on the backfoot but also for Australia to make a bold statement. On a turning MCA wicket, the Aussies could only hope for a miracle to get through India’s spin-twins. And their dream did materialize in the form of their captain, Steve Smith.
The young bloke from New South Wales took stage in the second innings after the Indians fell prey to O’Keefe’s leg spin. The conditions were demanding and despite a healthy 150+ run lead, the Aussies barely managed a decent connection. The ball would grip, turn, bounce and misbehave all at once. Facing the exploits of Ashwin and Jadeja on this wicket was a task but the Aussie captain was well upto it. Smith was beaten fair and square, made to fetch runs from unusual places and was challenged to hit against the spin for the most part. However, also riding his own luck, the World No. 1 survived every moment and came out on top of the Indians. He played out 202 deliveries for his knock of 109*, only one less than what the entire Indian team did in the second innings. It may not be the most beautiful, technical, brilliant or attractive innings but it was the practical impossibility that Smith battled that makes it most special.
199 vs West Indies, Jamaica 2015:
Jerome Taylor was threatening to run through the Australian batting order on a difficult Kingston wicket. Taylor dismmised the openers in quick succession and the Australian middle order found themselves exposed to swing too early. Steve Smith came to bat in the first over and almost played till the very end of Australia’s batting. He was dismissed a run short of a well deserved double hundred, but through his 199, the batting maestro displayed flamboyance, grit, determination and discipline to his very best. He countered swing well, batted for long hours with immense concentration and played out all the difficult phases with ease. His marathon innings not only propelled Australia to 399 but also paved a way to win that Test with ease. Smith also followed it up with a quickfire unbeaten 50 in the second innings giving Australia ample lead to rest in.
144 and 142, the twin centuries at Edgbaston 2019
Just as the Indian merrily cherish Virat’s twin centuries at Adelaide, Smith’s twin hundred against England at Edgbaston last Ashes are etched into Aussie minds forever. Coming out of a ban, both Smith and Warner were playing their first international Test series. The hostile English supporters welcomed either of them with a loud “boo” and were seen passing vague comments even on the cricket field. Though the pressure of all these would have had an impact on Smith’s mindset, he did not let that affect his batting. Right from the word go, Smith played blissful strokes all along, ably supported by the weirdest and the most unusual leaves.
Smith scored 144 in the first innings taking Australia to a respectable 284, being down 122/8. The Englishmen on the other hand were successful at attaining a 90 run lead, putting pressure back onto Paine’s Australian side. But as they say, “When the going gets tough, the tough gets going.” Both physical and mental toughness of Smith was on exhibition as he plundered the English bowling attack to all parts of the ground. With a calm and composed head, and also blessed with an able partner in Matthew Wade, Smith scored 142 again in the second innings. His centuries not only embarked his revival in Test cricket but also made the same hostile crowd see him go back with a standing ovation. Wouldn’t be a surprise if this Test match is not one of his most favorite memories ever.
100 vs South Africa, Centurion 2014:
Steve Smith is often regarded as one of the most complete Test cricketers the world has ever seen and his performance gives the classification a fair justice. Yet another such innings was a solitary hundred against South Africa in 2014. Largely overshadowed by his fellow teammate Shaun Marsh’s ton and Mitchell Johnson’s 12 wicket haul, Smith on a spicy Centurion wicket negotiated the threat of Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel at their prime. Coming in at 98/4, Smith shared a 233 run stand with Marsh to take the Micheal Clarke-led side to 397. The knock included only a solitary boundary in the first fifty but saw as many as 12 more in the later half. Smith stuck around battling the tough conditions but cashed onto all the opportunities thrown at him. The technique and the command that he showed throughout the innings laid the foundation for his rich and prosperous cricketing career.