MANCHESTER: Former Australian captain and current team mentor Steve Waugh said that Steve Smith’s record-breaking run in the ongoing Ashes is incomprehensible.
Smith has gone on overdrive in England scoring a mind-numbing 671 runs in five innings thus far at an average of 134.2. His quickfire 82 off 92 balls which got Australia closer to a possible victory in the fourth Test at Old Trafford was his lowest in the series.
“I obviously didn’t see Don Bradman play, but I guess it’s in a similar sort of vein,” Waugh told cricket.com.au. “He just keeps scoring runs and it almost looks too easy. He’s playing on a different level to everyone else.
“I guess you’ve just got to cash in while it lasts because we know cricket can turn around pretty quickly. But right now he’s making the most of some great form.”
Waugh said that while the performance alone is extraordinary, the fact that this is Smith’s first Test series in 16 months after his fall from grace in the 2018 Newlands ball-tampering scandal that led to him losing the Australian captaincy and being slapped with a one year ban by Cricket Australia makes it all the more incredible.
“It’s a phenomenal performance. It’s monumental when you look back on it. To be out of the game for so long, to have so much pressure and to do so well, it’s almost incomprehensible what he’s done. It’ll go down in the history of the game as one of the great performances by an individual in a series,” said Waugh.
Meanwhile, another former Aussie captain Allan Border thinks the entire team will need to doff their baggy Green Caps to former captain Smith.
“He’s been quite phenomenal and if Australia go on to win this game and retain the Ashes, it’s basically been on the back of Smith’s bat,” Border told Fox Sports TV. “He’s been phenomenal throughout the series and again yesterday, Australia in trouble as usual, top of the order struggling again.
“He just steadies the ship, and then that remarkable knock and gets them into position to declare and take those two late wickets which puts Australia right in the box seat going into day five.”
While Smith has thrived in a series pushed back into the autumn to accommodate the World Cup, his fellow top order batsmen, with the exception of Marnus Labuschagne, have endured a torrid time in the face of the hostile English bowling.
“He’s just a different class, it’s as simple as that, he looks like he’s playing in different conditions,” Border added. “The bowling looks less threatening when he’s at the crease. All the other batsmen have really struggled.
“There’s been some good bowling and the pitches have helped the bowlers a fair bit throughout the series ... but when Steve Smith’s facing up, it’s a different ballgame.
“He’s just been the difference between the two teams to date.”
Border, who scored 3,548 runs from 47 Tests against England at an average of 56.31, felt changes would be needed for the final Test at the Oval.
“I think we hold all the aces but if it’s draw, they will have to look at that top order,” Border said. “They’re just missing straight balls and they can’t keep relying on Steve Smith to get them out of trouble, he’s going to miss out eventually.”
Published in Dawn, September 9th, 2019