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Is Steve Smith the Best Since Bradman?

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Last Updated on 4 years by Charbel Coorey

Steve Smith: Australia’s insatiable run-scoring beast | Is Steve Smith the Best Since Bradman?

Who will win the Ashes?“, pondered two nations and millions of fans ahead of one of the most anticipated Test series on the cricketing calendar. By the time the Edgbaston Test was over, the question quickly turned to “how the hell do you get Steve Smith out?”

Mostly in the UK. Australian fans were simply loving it.

The question of how to get Smith out was also very prevalent in the 2017/18 series, where Smith plundered the England attack to all parts. However, there is an argument to Steve Smith’s brilliance in Ashes 2019: he has come back an even better player since serving his one year suspension in the fallout of Cape Town.

https://twitter.com/ESPNcricinfo/status/1170381433862574083?s=20
Just another match for Smith.

Why Steve Smith is better now than when he left the game temporarily

It is a big statement to make. After all, the man began his one year suspension with 6,199 Test runs in 63 Tests, at a remarkable average of 61.38.

However, he, along with other Australian batsmen, were beneficiary of a change in Australian conditions over the past five years. With cricket grounds now forced to share with other sporting codes more than ever before, the rise of drop-in pitches has made life very pleasant for batsmen in Test matches in Australia.

To paint a picture, David Warner, who has three ducks in a row in Ashes 2019, has scored 2,745 runs at 65.36 in Tests in Australia between 2013/14 and 2017/18. Usman Khawaja, who was dropped for the fourth Test at Old Trafford, averages nearly 53 at home. Also, Mitchell Marsh, who is considered a no-go zone for many given his struggle to repay the faith, scored two centuries in the 2017/18 Ashes. England looked toothless with the Kookaburra ball on benign surfaces, which included the awful MCG track, reported by the ICC.

However, the key difference with Smith, particularly in Ashes 2019, has been his ability to overcome challenging circumstances and conditions. With the top three struggling, he has often played the role of opener, weathering the England storm and holding fort strongly.

The same couldn’t be said of his 2015 campaign, where Smith, despite his excellent numbers, struggled on pitches offering more assistance for the bowlers. When he scored big, others did too. Fast forward four years, and Smith has almost single handedly kept the Urn in Australia, displaying such an insatiable hunger for runs that England fans who started the summer booing the man could then not help but applaud him.

A truly staggering performance.

https://twitter.com/CricCrazyJohns/status/1169648934475583489?s=20
Just too good.

Steve Smith’s incredible Ashes 2019 campaign

There aren’t enough words or superlatives to describe Steve Smith right now. Three innings was all it took to replace Virat Kohli as Test Cricket’s premier batsman, who himself had outstanding series in South Africa and England last year. However, if you thought Kohli’s 593 runs in a low-scoring series in England was great (which it was), then Smith’s 671 runs in five innings is something truly out of this world. All in the face of adversity, coming back from a ban.

The best part about it? It was far from easy, but Steve Smith made it look so. From Plan A, B all the way to Z, England tried absolutely everything to get better of the world’s premier Test batsman. They thought they had done so when Jofra Archer felled him at Lord’s. But, Smith stood firm, adjusting the way he would play the short ball, courtesy of trademark hours and hours of practice between matches.

Not bad for a guy who started his Test career as a legspinner who batted at eight.

Hope for us all!

However, Smith’s exploits go beyond how he responded to the Archer challenge. Beyond how he doesn’t get tired of batting. Beyond his love for the game. Every batsmen participating in this Ashes series loves the game, but none possess the mental strength and insatiable hunger Smith has, even if their technique looks better to the eye. Smith was faced with difficult situations, where it was just him standing in the way of total England dominance as the others fell like nine pins. The ball was doing quite a bit, too, which Smith would struggle with at times pre-one year ban.

At Edgbaston, Smith led the way as he rescued Australia from the depths of 122/8. He followed it up with a second innings century for good measure, after Australia lost early wickets while still trailing England on the first innings. Lord’s came around and another century was beckoning, fighting his way against some of the best fast bowling you’ll see from Jofra Archer. He may have copped a bad knock, but he then delivered the ultimate knockout blow at Old Trafford with his third Ashes double century.

Joe Root will surely go to bed at night for the next week thinking of Steve Smith’s backside. England executed their plans and found success against every other batsman (bar Marnus Labuschagne), but when it came to Smith, they simply had no answer. They beat the bat at times on the fourth/fifth stump line, but on occasions where Smith would just shuffle across to work the ball to leg, England felt that off-stump wouldn’t be enough to get this man out.

Surely, just surely, he will eventually miss a straight one. Not on Steve’s watch.

Also read: Ashes 4th Test Player Ratings: Australia retain the Urn!

Steve Smith: Australia's insatiable run-scoring beast. A look at Steve Smith, one of Australia's best ever. Ashes 2019.
Bowlers must persist on off-stump to Steve Smith

As he continued to plunder runs, Jack Leach’s no ball sucked the life out of Old Trafford. It takes a special player to suck the life out of a cauldron, and Steve Smith did just that.

Also, spare a thought for Pat Cummins, whose performances in this series would take centre stage in most other series. But, not when Smith is in this mood.

Steve Smith: Australia's insatiable run-scoring beast. A look at Steve Smith, one of Australia's best ever. Ashes 2019.
Jack Leach dismissed Smith in the 120s, but replays showed a no-ball.

Is Steve Smith the best batsman since Bradman?

The burning question. Is Steve Smith the best player in the last 70 years?

The statistics say he is. An average close to 65 after 67 Tests is extraordinary. Even more extraordinary is his record in the first innings of Tests since 2013. In 34 innings, Smith has plundered 3,142 runs at an average in excess of 100. This is 787 runs more than the next best – Joe Root – who has played 12 innings more than Smith. In addition, Steve Smith has the highest average in away Test wins in history, with 108.6. Sir Don Bradman is next with 96.8. Ridiculous.

Steve Smith: Australia's insatiable run-scoring beast. A look at Steve Smith, one of Australia's best ever. Ashes 2019.
Extraordinary numbers.

However, while I won’t argue with anyone who believes Smith is the best since Bradman, players of yesteryear who encountered some of the world’s greatest bowlers, particularly without a helmet, should always be held in very high regard. The likes of Sir Vivian Richards, Allan Border, Greg Chappell, Sunil Gavaskar and more can never be forgotten. More recently, the likes of Steve Waugh, Sachin Tendulkar, Brian Lara, AB de Villiers and Ricky Ponting played some of the greatest bowlers ever on sporting pitches.

It is very tough to compare players across eras. However, when doing so, statistics should form part of the discussion, not all of it. One thing is for certain, though – Steve Smith is one of the all-time greats. Who knows just where this man could finish up by the end of his career.

I’ll answer the Bradman question then.

Thanks for reading!

Also read: Ashes 4th Test Player Ratings: Australia retain the Urn!

Charbel Coorey
Charbel Cooreyhttps://cricblog.net
Charbel is the owner & founder of cricblog.net, based in Sydney, Australia. He started the website to fulfill his love for the game of cricket. Charbel has been featured on other publications including OP India, Times of India, and The Roar, among others. He is also a keen fantasy sports player. Charbel has also had the privilege of interviewing cricketers on the CricBlog TV YouTube channel, including James Neesham, Rassie van der Dussen, Andrew Tye, Shreyas Gopal, Jaydev Unadkat and Saurabh Netravalkar: https://www.youtube.com/@cricblogtv For any story tips or questions, you can contact Charbel at charbelcoorey@cricblog.net.

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