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Steven 3D Smith: From potential successor of Shane Warne to the ‘Don’ of the new era

Steven Smith: From potential successor of Shane Warne to the ‘Don’ of the new era. Steven Smith has the highest average after 99 Tests and Don Bradman.

Steven Smith only 2nd to Don Bradman in Test average after 99 Tests | Walking Wicket (Images_ ©stevesmith49_Twitter)
Smith only 2nd to Don Bradman in Test average after 99 Tests (Images: ©stevesmith49/Twitter)

“Steven Smith is still in, but how to get him out?” - It was the exact topic the England commentators were discussing during the middle session of the third day during the opening 2019 Ashes Test at Edgbaston when Smith, fresh from his first innings hundred in that game moved onto the 90s in a quiet manner. Just like all the poor England bowlers, no one present at the ground had any plan to send Smith back to the dressing room.


The well-documented journey of Steven Smith has been real different from his counterparts. The likes of Virat Kohli, Joe Root or Kane Williamson - all started their journey as pure batters, unlike Smith whose first job was to spin the ball like Shane Warne.


“Proud is the word I suppose,” an excited Smith who becomes the 15th Australian and 75th overall to make 100 Test appearances expressed his feelings. “The longevity I have had in the game and what I have been able to achieve across those 100 (Tests), it’s been a great journey; I loved every moment of it.”


Focused and grinding the crease making the bowlers tired: The Steven Smith Formula

One thing is absolutely certain about Steven Smith: whether it’s in the middle of the night in his hotel room or sitting in the chair or even before the start of play, one will always find him doing shadow batting, he just loves to bat all the time.


The theory behind his success has been simple and straightforward. In all the situations whether when Australia are in a comfortable condition or they are under tremendous pressure losing two early wickets, Smith always follows his own routine of batting. There is hardly anyone like him at the moment around the globe.


Quite interestingly, the young kids should notice the formula Smith uses in his batting but never try to follow the act he does in the middle. Even when the bowler is at the half point of his run-up mark, Smith seems to be dancing on the track before shuffling across so much that most bowlers try to hit his stumps or make him a dead candidate of the leg before the wicket (LBW) dismissal but the bottom line is that Steve Smith never misses those straight deliveries.


But the three features are constant when he bats for his side in any format of the game - focused, patient and always lost in his own box of thoughts with the bat in hand. That’s always the key for batting, especially in Test matches when one bad shot or a good delivery could end one’s hard work over a long period of time.


But he is switched on all the time even after doing all those weird stuff whether looking in the bowlers’ eyes or suddenly praising the delivery. “I think it’s left pad, right pad, box, one tap in the middle, two tap behind my foot, look up, two tap behind my foot, look up, one tap and good to go for every ball,” Smith just explained his batting stance for all the deliveries in the documentary called ‘The New Era of Australian Cricket’.


Unlike all the other top-ranked batters, Smith started his career as a leg-spin all-rounder before transforming himself as the best Test batter of this era. Very few can boast numbers as great as what Smith has accumulated over a 13-year long career.



Smith’s redemption in Edgbaston 2019 showed his strong mentality

For any player from the SENA (South Africa, England, New Zealand, Australia) countries, their main challenge is to counter the spin attack in Asian conditions and Steven Smith showed his class during the Pune Test match in 2017. Hosts India were bundled out for 105 in their first innings on a track where the ball was turning square. But Smith showed his class for his unbelievable 109-run knock in 202 balls with the help of 11 boundaries. The knock was about Smith’s focus and determination to play two world class spinners - Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin using soft hands.


Two years later in 2019 at Edgbaston during the opening Ashes Test, there was a different sort of pressure on Smith who was making a comeback after a 12-month suspension because of ball tempering. Australia were under tremendous pressure at 122/8, when Smith put up two partnerships of 88 runs and 74 runs for the last two wickets to celebrate his 144-run knock thanks to 16 boundaries and two sixes. He backed it up with another second innings century of 142 runs with 14 fours.


His third best hundred is the recent one he made during the World Test Championship (WTC) 2021-23 final where coming at 76/3, he put on a 285-run stand with Travis Head to end with a 121-run marathon knock, decorated with 19 fours. The ball was swinging and seaming at the start but Smith made batting look so easy.



The best since Bradman, Smith has most runs and highest average after 100 Tests

Before his 100th Test in Headingley, Steve Smith had 9113 runs in 99 Tests with the help of 32 centuries and 37 half-centuries besides his best score of 239, becoming the only player to breach the 9000-run milestone by the eve of his 100th Test.


His average of 59.56 is also the highest ever for a player after 99 Tests, going ahead of Rahul Dravid’s 58.16 comfortably while his 32 centuries are two more than Sunil Gavaskar, Sachin Tendulkar, Matthew Hayden, all of whom had 30 each at that stage.


Runs scored by Smith in three periods across his Test career

Time Period

Matches

Runs

Average

100s

Till 2013

16

970

34.64

02

2014-2019

56

6194

72.02

24

2020 Onwards

28

1973

46.12

06

The greatness of a batter only comes when he performs equally home and away. In this current era, it’s very rare that a player goes abroad and still show the same level of performance.

Steven Smith carries the highest Test Average in Modern era _ Walking Wicket (Images_ ©stevesmith49_Twitter)
Smith carries the highest Test Average in Modern era (Images: ©stevesmith49/Twitter)

Let’s break Smith’s record on both home and away parameters

Venue

Mat

Inns

Runs

Ave

100s/50s

HS

Home

48

81

4387

64.51

16/17

239

Away

52

96

4750

54.60

16/20

215

Overall

100

177

9137

58.95

32/37

239

Among all the 106 players who have made 5000+ Test runs, Smith’s career average of 58.95 after 100 Tests sits second in the list of highest batting averages, just behind Don Bradman’s 99.94 from his 52 Tests. Smith had a remarkable 50-Test sequence where he averaged a whopping 76.03; the only player to better this number in the 140-odd years of the format is Bradman.



Highest average in a 50-Test sequence in a player’s career

Player

Innings

Runs

Ave

100s

Start Date

End Date

Don Bradman

77

6977

104.13

29

29 Dec 1928

27 Jul 1948

Steven Smith

89

5778

76.03

23

12 Feb 2014

8 Sep 2019

Ricky Ponting

88

5586

74.48

22

11 Oct 2022

05 Dec 2006

Garfield Sobers

85

5335

74.10

19

05 Feb 1958

03 Apr 1968

Jacques Kallis

88

4927

72.46

18

06 Apr 2001

28 Mar 2006

The litmus test for any batter in Tests has been consistently scoring runs in rather alien conditions away from home and only two batters have a 55+ average both home and away - Len Hutton and Steven Smith. He averages 40+ in all countries he has played in barring Bangladesh where he has featured in just four innings across a solitary Test series in 2017.


Smith’s performance in different countries across the world

Country

Mat

Inns

Runs

Ave

100s/50s

HS

Australia

48

81

4387

64.51

16/17

239

Bangladesh

02

04

119

29.75

00/01

58

England

20

38

2072

56.00

08/07

215

India

10

19

805

50.31

03/01

178*

New Zealand

02

03

262

131.00

01/02

138

Pakistan

03

04

226

56.50

00/03

78

South Africa

06

11

411

41.40

01/02

100

Sri Lanka

05

09

398

49.75

02/01

145*

UAE

02

04

174

43.50

00/02

97

West Indies

02

04

283

141.50

01/01

199

Overall

100

177

9137

58.95

32/37

239

If there is any minor blip one could find in an otherwise illustrious career, it will be Smith’s second innings average of 38.52 compared to his first innings average of 73.70.


In addition, with the bat, Smith is also a remarkable fielder having taken 165 catches as an outfielder, and sitting in the list only behind Ricky Ponting (196) and Mark Waugh (181) for Australia.


Steven Smith will be in action again when the fourth Ashes Test begins on July 19 at the Old Trafford in Manchester.


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