Cricketer of the Week (December 15-22): Steve Smith
Australia took a 2-0 lead in the four-match Test series against India by winning the second Test at Brisbane on Saturday by four wickets. Resuming day 4 on 71 for 1, India were bowled out for 224 in their second innings with Mitchell Johnson, picking up 4 for 61 in 17.3 overs and ripping the heart out of the Indian batting line-up.
However, the game for the Australians was once again set up by middle-order batsman and stand-in skipper, Steve Smith, who scored a fine 133 in his side's first innings to rescue his side from a precarious position and take them to safety. This was Smith's second hundred of the series and his sixth overall and fourth in 2014. Australia have never lost a Test when Smith has scored a century and he is increasingly gaining a reputation of someone who scores important runs for his side in the middle-order.
From bowling all-rounder to star batsman
The 25-year-old has experienced a complete changeover in his cricketing career, ever since making his Test debut in 2010. Smith started off more a leg-break bowler before emerging as a fine young batsman capable of playing fast and spin bowling equally well.
Even before Smith made his Test debut, he received praise from Australia's World Cup-winning captain Steve Waugh, whom he called the most exciting all round talent to come out of the country in the last 20 years.
After a few sporadic spells with the national team, the turning point in Smith's career came last year when he scored his maiden Test hundred, an impressive 138* against England at the Oval. The right-hander has gone from strength-to-strength ever since that innings and was a key member in Australia's Ashes winning campaign, earlier this year.
He further cemented his place in the Test setup earlier this year, when he scored crucial runs for his side on their tour of South Africa that helped the Aussies win 2-1. He scored a hundred at the Supersport Park in Centurion, which he rates as one of the best hundreds he has ever hit, considering the quality of the attack, he was up against.
He made a terrific start to this summer, smashing a 162* against India at the Adelaide Oval in the first innings.
Probably, the best moment of his short career thus far, came before the start of the second Test at Brisbane, when he was appointed captain of the Australian Cricket team after regular captain Michael Clarke was ruled out of the series due to a torn hamstring.
Leading from the front
The 25-year-old began his captaincy reign with a bang, scoring an excellent 133 and sharing a 148-run stand with Mitchell Johnson, that helped the Aussies recover from 247 for 6 to reach 505 all out.
In the second innings, he came into bat with his side in some-of-kind of trouble at 22 for 2, chasing 128 for a win. He played a sedate knock of 28 off 39 balls but more importantly helped calm the nerves down in the dressing room after India had taken two early wickets of Warner and Watson, cheaply.
Apart from contributing with the bat, Smith came across a good leader on the field as well, using Johnson for a short bursts and keeping Nathan Lyon in the game at all times.
Heading into Melbourne for the Boxing Day Test, Smith will certainly play a key role with the bat, considering that the rest of the Australian batsman haven't been in top form. India would be looking to get rid of him quickly to keep any hopes of restricting Australia to a low score.
You can catch the past winners of this series on this link: Recent Cricketers of the Week