Steve Smith hundred in crisis marks him as Australia’s best bet for the one-drop position

Before the start of the second Test match, Steve Smith had stated his latest goal was to solve Australia’s No 3 problem and emulate the great Ricky Ponting. Twenty four hours later, Smith had started his new mission in fine style by scoring a hundred in just third outing at that slot. For the record, it had taken Ponting 12 innings, his predecessor David Boon nine innings, to score a century at one-drop.

 

But records are least of Smith’s concerns; he simply loves new challenges. Despite his prodigious form and run amassment in the past year, batting against a new ball at No 3 was one examination Steve Smith was to confront.

 

His recent success would have pencilled him to succeed. But as Smith will tell you, from his first introduction to Test cricket, the game is not as easy as it looks especially given the conditions at Sabina Park on the first day of the second Test.

 

Coming in to bat to the fifth ball of the day was the earliest Smith has walked to the crease at least at the Test level. In the next hour, he would overcome one of the finest spell of opening spells from Jerome Taylor.

 

During an enduring first hour, Smith only hit one boundary but his defence was impeccable. He was only beaten twice. Even the firm clips of balls angled towards his pads were treated with respect, as Smith offered a straight bat knowing playing across the line against the swinging ball would be catastrophic.

 

The bowling from Taylor was of the highest calibre. He was impeccable with his line and length. The ball swung late and jumped from a length. The West Indian quick might not be James Anderson but certainly resembled the Lancastrian.

 

Fast forward another month and Smith will be in England against the master himself, James Anderson. England quick will be in his own conditions and chances are Smith will stumble upon similar challenge quite frequently. This was a perfect rehearsal for what lies ahead.

 

The runs Smith amassed after the first hours have now become customary. As the conditions eased, Smith shifted gears scoring 30 in 36 balls. But Clarke perished from the other end, Smith immediately realised it was time to curtailed himself as he went back to his shell to score next three runs in 30 balls. It was adjusting his game to the team situation.

 

With each innings Smith manages to overcome brand new challenge. Batting at No 3 in tough conditions is certainly one hell of a challenge. With his latest hundred, he has shown not only he is ready for the one-drop slot but also to take on Anderson and Company under the cloudy skies facing a brand new swinging Duke.

 

(Gaurav Joshi is an Indian-born Australian who played with Michael Clarke in his junior days. He coaches and reports for a Sydney radio station. Over the years he has freelanced for Australia Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) and is a regular on ABC cricket show Cow Corner. He is the author of the book “Teen Thunder Down Under” – The inside story of India’s 2012 U19 World Cup Triumph)