Infotainment Factory: Smith answers Australia's biggest question

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Saturday, 25 May 2019

Smith answers Australia's biggest question


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Steve Smith has played just a handful of games back in Australian colours and we cannot jump to major conclusions.

But the early indication is this: yes, he can simply waltz back into international cricket and dominate as he did before.

Smith, 30 next month, just whacked World Cup host and tournament favourite England for 116 in a warm-up match. His previous three innings were 89 not out, 91 not out and 76; and that's coming off an elbow injury.

He has certainly made England, whose fans booed during his century, sit up and take notice.

"He just looked like the Steve Smith of old, didn't he?" stand-in England captain Jos Buttler said.

"He just played well. He played good cricket shots and very in control of his innings.

"He looks the same player doesn't he? He was a class player 12 months ago and he still is, so he hasn't obviously forgotten how to bat in that time. He is one of the world's best batsmen and he knows his game very well and I think that's what you saw today."

Smith had set the bar so high - he was legitimately the finest Test batsman since Bradman - that is was near-impossible to believe that he could simply resume his career as if nothing had happened after his year-long ban from the Cape Town ball-tampering scandal.

Now, at least, we can dare to dream. Former England captain Michael Vaughan said that he expected to see plenty of Smith during the English summer; first in the World Cup, then the Ashes.

https://twitter.com/MichaelVaughan/status/1132270629296771075

Former Australian captain Mark Taylor said that Smith's integration back into the team appeared to be seamless, despite him being stripped of the captaincy. Smith emerged from 'Sandpapergate' bearing less blame than his former vice-captain David Warner, who was fingered as the mastermind and also reported to have angered teammates.

Taylor said that even the booing of Smith and Warner could be spun positively: facing England in a warm-up game meant that English fans had their first crack at the superstars before the tournament, showing the Aussies what to expect.

"Last night we saw boos, but they'd have been expecting that," Taylor said on Sports Sunday.

"I think there's a comfort now in that side around Smith and Warner; a comfort within themselves, but also from the players they're playing with."

Taylor said that he had been struck by Smith's comments post-match.

"He's saying that he's as good as he was. He feels now that he's as good as he was," Taylor said.

"His press conference was very honest. He said, 'I've had a year out, right in my prime, I didn't know how I'd go'."

Smith booed during brilliant century

Smith said that although he'd played only practice matches, he was pleased with his form. The old signs were there: the trademark fidgeting between balls, even the 'tweener' leg glance shot.

Smith was actually in disappointing ODI form before his suspension. He had not made a half-century in his past seven innings, and hadn't made a century in his past 15, spanning back to January 2017 against Pakistan in Perth.

"I was actually a little bit disappointed with my one-day form probably the last 18 months - take out the last 12 - so it was nice to spend a bit of time out in the middle today and the practice games that we've had so far I have felt really good," Smith said after his England ton.

"Everything is going well and I'm looking forward to the first game coming now.

"I'm not reading too much into it, they're just practice games at the moment, hopefully I can keep this form for the real stuff and we'll make a judgment then. I am feeling good, I'm feeling calm at the crease and hitting the right balls I want to the boundary.

"Not too many players have a year out of the game. Having performed at a high level for four to five years and to then have a year away has helped freshen me up and come back hungrier than ever.

"I've worked on a few different things and get fitter and hopefully I'll have a good World Cup."

The Australian public's attitude towards Smith has softened considerably since his ban was handed down and he accepted responsibility in a tearful press conference. His role in Australia defending the World Cup comes with the goodwill of the majority of Aussie fans.

And he will have an enormous role to play in the Ashes, with Australian batsmen struggling greatly on recent tours against the swinging Dukes ball.

Smith boasts an exceptional Test record of 6,199 runs at 61.37 from 64 Tests, with 23 centuries. He has scored three Ashes centuries in England, including a 215 at Lord's, and averages a strong 47.38 in the Old Dart.

First things first: Australia plays its World Cup opener against Afghanistan on June 1 in Bristol.

Smith will bat either No.3 or No.4 - and Australia will be willing him to produce the heroics that dazzled cricket before his fall from grace. It now seems a distinct possibility that he can deliver.

Steve Smith has played just a handful of games back in Australian colours and we cannot jump to major conclusions.

But the early indication is this: yes, he can simply waltz back into international cricket and dominate as he did before.

Smith, 30 next month, just whacked World Cup host and tournament favourite England for 116 in a warm-up match. His previous three innings were 89 not out, 91 not out and 76; and that's coming off an elbow injury.

He has certainly made England, whose fans booed during his century, sit up and take notice.

"He just looked like the Steve Smith of old, didn't he?" stand-in England captain Jos Buttler said.

"He just played well. He played good cricket shots and very in control of his innings.

"He looks the same player doesn't he? He was a class player 12 months ago and he still is, so he hasn't obviously forgotten how to bat in that time. He is one of the world's best batsmen and he knows his game very well and I think that's what you saw today."

Smith had set the bar so high - he was legitimately the finest Test batsman since Bradman - that is was near-impossible to believe that he could simply resume his career as if nothing had happened after his year-long ban from the Cape Town ball-tampering scandal.

Now, at least, we can dare to dream. Former England captain Michael Vaughan said that he expected to see plenty of Smith during the English summer; first in the World Cup, then the Ashes.

https://twitter.com/MichaelVaughan/status/1132270629296771075

Former Australian captain Mark Taylor said that Smith's integration back into the team appeared to be seamless, despite him being stripped of the captaincy. Smith emerged from 'Sandpapergate' bearing less blame than his former vice-captain David Warner, who was fingered as the mastermind and also reported to have angered teammates.

Taylor said that even the booing of Smith and Warner could be spun positively: facing England in a warm-up game meant that English fans had their first crack at the superstars before the tournament, showing the Aussies what to expect.

"Last night we saw boos, but they'd have been expecting that," Taylor said on Sports Sunday.

"I think there's a comfort now in that side around Smith and Warner; a comfort within themselves, but also from the players they're playing with."

Taylor said that he had been struck by Smith's comments post-match.

"He's saying that he's as good as he was. He feels now that he's as good as he was," Taylor said.

"His press conference was very honest. He said, 'I've had a year out, right in my prime, I didn't know how I'd go'."

Smith booed during brilliant century

Smith said that although he'd played only practice matches, he was pleased with his form. The old signs were there: the trademark fidgeting between balls, even the 'tweener' leg glance shot.

Smith was actually in disappointing ODI form before his suspension. He had not made a half-century in his past seven innings, and hadn't made a century in his past 15, spanning back to January 2017 against Pakistan in Perth.

"I was actually a little bit disappointed with my one-day form probably the last 18 months - take out the last 12 - so it was nice to spend a bit of time out in the middle today and the practice games that we've had so far I have felt really good," Smith said after his England ton.

"Everything is going well and I'm looking forward to the first game coming now.

"I'm not reading too much into it, they're just practice games at the moment, hopefully I can keep this form for the real stuff and we'll make a judgment then. I am feeling good, I'm feeling calm at the crease and hitting the right balls I want to the boundary.

"Not too many players have a year out of the game. Having performed at a high level for four to five years and to then have a year away has helped freshen me up and come back hungrier than ever.

"I've worked on a few different things and get fitter and hopefully I'll have a good World Cup."

The Australian public's attitude towards Smith has softened considerably since his ban was handed down and he accepted responsibility in a tearful press conference. His role in Australia defending the World Cup comes with the goodwill of the majority of Aussie fans.

And he will have an enormous role to play in the Ashes, with Australian batsmen struggling greatly on recent tours against the swinging Dukes ball.

Smith boasts an exceptional Test record of 6,199 runs at 61.37 from 64 Tests, with 23 centuries. He has scored three Ashes centuries in England, including a 215 at Lord's, and averages a strong 47.38 in the Old Dart.

First things first: Australia plays its World Cup opener against Afghanistan on June 1 in Bristol.

Smith will bat either No.3 or No.4 - and Australia will be willing him to produce the heroics that dazzled cricket before his fall from grace. It now seems a distinct possibility that he can deliver.

http://bit.ly/2VSzF86
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