Analysing Steven Smith's record-breaking 2017
A new calendar year brings a new season for many sports like tennis, formula one and badminton. However, cricket-playing nations have their own seasons and the cricketing itinerary doesn't exactly follow the calendar year. But, for the ease of analysis, a calendar year is the most preferred period.
After every calendar year, a popular trend among statisticians and commentators is to analyze the performance of teams and players. This article is one such attempt to look back at the performances of the Australian captain Steven Smith in 2017, in the Test arena.
Smith began the year with a milestone. The third and final Test against Pakistan at Sydney marked his 50th Test appearance. The Aussie skipper stepped into the Test with an impressive average of 60.6. It was just a reflection of the great form he had been enjoying with the bat since 2014. Scores of 24 and 59 assured an encouraging start to the year even as the hosts emerged victorious, clinching the series 3-0.
Australia then headed to India for a four-Test series. It was a much-hyped series, drawing a lot of interest from the fans and media. The odds were against Smith and co. as the Kangaroos had suffered whitewashes in their previous tours, in 2010 and 2013. But cricket is a game of uncertainties. The men from Down Under produced a scintillating performance in the opening Test, defeating India in Pune by a huge margin of 333 runs! Spinner Steve O'Keefe rattled the strong Indian batting order in both innings, but it was the skipper's gritty 109 in the second innings that proved to be the difference between the two sides.
The hosts bounced back, winning the second Test at Bengaluru to level the series. The honors were then shared at Ranchi as the third Test ended in a draw. On a batting-friendly, Smith remained unbeaten in the first innings, scoring a mammoth 178! The elegant right-hander extended his good run with the bat in the decider as well. At Dharmasala in the first innings, his rapid 111 helped Australia get to 300 on a spinning track! But his dismissal in the second innings triggered a collapse and the Kangaroos were bundled out for 137, setting an easy target of 105 for the hosts. India went on to win the Test and the series but Smith's stocks went up several notches, as he amassed 499 runs in eight innings at an outstanding average of 71.25.
Calm before the storm
Australia then headed to the subcontinent again! This time to Bangladesh in August to play two Tests. Unlike in India, Smith had a modest series with scores of 8, 37, 58 and 16! The series was a test for his captaincy as well, with the Kangaroos conceding a Test to the Tigers for the first time, before bouncing back to level the series 1-1.
Flying high in the Ashes
As the end of the year approached, England arrived in Australia for the Ashes. Unlike the series in India, the odds were in favor of the Kangaroos, mainly because of the 5-0 drubbing they had handed the tourists when they visited in 2013-14. Smith's unbeaten 141 in the first innings at the Gabba set the tone for the series. His entire team rallied behind him, producing dominant performances with both bat and ball, as the hosts went up 2-0 after the Adelaide Test. The right-hander's career-best 239 in the Perth Test sealed the series with two more Tests to go, as the Kangaroos wrested back the urn from the Englishmen in style!
Alastair Cook’s unbeaten 244 threatened to take away the Boxing Day Test! But the marathon innings that lasted 438 minutes and 275 balls, for an unbeaten 102 by the man in form, ensured a draw for the hosts. With one Test to go, Smith had amassed 604 runs at an extraordinary average of 151.
Raising the bar
The Boxing Day Test took Smith to another milestone. The year witnessed the stylish right-hander appearing in 11 Tests, collecting 1305 runs in 20 innings at an average of 76.76. His career average zoomed to 63.55 which is 10 more than Virat Kohli's and 11 more than Joe Root's. Smith also topped the Test batting charts of 2017 and maintained the numero uno status in the rankings throughout the year.
With the fifth and final Test of the Ashes already underway, Smith will look to carry his stellar form into the new year.