SK Elite: When Steve Smith's magic floored India at Perth
Australian captain Steve Smith is one of the finest batsmen in the world and is without a doubt, on his way to becoming one of his nation’s greatest. In limited overs cricket, he plays in his usual unorthodox fashion and has proven to be a match-winner for his country in one day cricket.
Smith has scored 8 centuries in his ODI career so far and most of them have been eminently enjoyable innings for cricket fans. Among them, the 149 he scored against India in the first ODI of the 5-match series back in 2016 is one of his best. Many might want to dismiss it by saying that it was just another meaningless 5-match ODI series with no context but that is nothing but being disrespectful towards an innings of immense quality and grace. So let’s take a look at this Steve Smith masterclass.
It was the 1st match of the series and Rohit Sharma had already put down a marker by making 171 as India scored 309 batting first. In their chase, Australia found themselves in early trouble as debutant Barinder Sran removed openers Aaron Finch and David Warner to reduce them to 21-2. If India had got Smith, then it is fair to say that the game could have been over but he had other ideas and played an innings of rare quality that knocked the stuffing out of India’s bowling attack.
It is necessary to keep in mind that Smith did not have the luxury of playing out too many deliveries in order to get his game going since Australia were chasing 310. Smith is one of those rare players who can score quickly without taking undue risks and that is probably the biggest hallmark of a batsman from out of the top drawer.
However, Smith’s innings and his 242-run partnership with George Bailey was not littered with powerful hits to the fence but instead, he batted far more intelligently to exploit the size of the ground and the relatively weaker arms of the Indian fielders.
It was intelligent limited overs cricket batting of the highest order as he ran a lot of twos and threes to chip away at the target without actually looking like running away with the game. It was a classic case of the fielding team suddenly realising that the game is slipping away from them and that is usually the effect Steve Smith has with his innocuous technique and the ability to run hard between the wickets.
However, when he did go for his shots, there were no half measures and there were no false shots. On that day, Smith was in total control of his and team’s destiny as he dismantled India gleefully.
In total, he hit 11 fours and 2 sixes, which is only around 35% of the total runs he scored but his strike rate stood at 110.37, which goes to show how hard he ran and how he exploited the Indian team’s weakness with throws from the deep. By contrast, Rohit Sharma scored around 55% of his runs in boundaries but ended up with an inferior strike rate to Smith.
This particular inning from Smith is an excellent study on how running hard and eliminating risks can often prove to be more productive than hitting boundaries. Needless to say, he is quite capable of clearing the ground but at Perth that day he identified a weakness in the opposition and exploited it ruthlessly to take Australia to a well-deserved victory.
Needless to say, Smith got excellent support from George Bailey as well, who polished off a century and scored 112 off 120 balls, as the pair added 242 runs to bat India out of the game.
The presence of Smith batting superbly at the other hand must have also been a huge boost for Bailey as the pair repaired the early damage and set about chasing down India’s total. However, the headliner of the match was Steve Smith and his clever manipulation of the game that saw Australia win the game comfortably in the end.
It set the tone for the series as India seemed demoralised after that first ODI and went on to lose 3 more on the trot before fashioning a last gasp victory in the final game to avoid a whitewash.
It is a pity that he fell one short of 150 but by then he had put the game beyond India and set Australia towards the path of a comfortable victory. Although it true that this masterpiece from Smith will forever be overlooked since it did not come in an ICC event, there is absolutely no doubt that it is one of his finest ever ODI innings and deserves to be celebrated as much as some of his epic Test match innings for Australia.