It may have not been their best performance, but Australia has started the 2017-18 Ashes Series in the perfect way possible, defeating England by 10 wickets to take a one-nil lead in the series heading into the first-ever day/night Test match between Australia and England at the Adelaide Oval.
Australia have now gone undefeated in the last 29 Test matches at The Gabba in Brisbane, including in the last eight Ashes Test matches against England, with Australia winning six of those eight against England, and 22 of the last 29 at The Gabba overall, and while all of the bowlers in Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins, and Nathan Lyon all bowled consistently well throughout the Test match, it was Australian captain Steve Smith who set up the opportunity for an Australian victory with a fabulous, tough, and gritty 141 not out from 326 balls, which included 14 fours.
And with this, Smith is just 158 runs away from scoring 1000 runs for the fourth-calendar year in a row, which would put him one year behind Matthew Hayden’s record of scoring 1000 test match runs in five-consecutive calendar years. Smith is turning into one of the greatest batsmen of all-time, currently averaging 61.23 in Test match cricket, which is the highest average by anyone who has batted in at least 100 innings in Test match cricket, scoring 5511 runs, which is the most by any batsman after 57 Test matches, reaching 50 on 42 occasions in his Test career, and converting half of those into centuries.
In addition to this, Smith is just 29 runs away from becoming the 26th batsman, and the ninth Australian after Allan Border, Ricky Ponting, Greg Chappell, Michael Clarke, Steve Waugh, Bob Simpson, Mark Taylor, and Sir Donald Bradman to score 3000 runs as a captain in Test match cricket.
England captain Joe Root and the English bowlers tried just about every tactic in the book to attempt to get Smith out, but found out, if they didn’t know already, that it is very tough to bowl to the Australian captain, very hard to get him forward defending, and equally tough to get him edging the ball to the wicket-keeper and/or slips. He also has a wide-array of shots, meaning that the bowlers can struggle to tie him down.
So, how do you get Steve Smith out?
If you are a fast bowler, I think if you are wanting to get Smith out, you have essentially got to rough him up early, and test out his footwork, bowling some well-directed short balls, some full-pitched balls/yorkers, some good-length balls, even going from over to round the wicket to see if you can muddle up his footwork, and if you can do this, then you need to consistently bowl a good line on or just outside off stump to try and get him out caught behind, or possibly leg before wicket (LBW).
If you can’t do this, and get him out early, you are going to be in for a tough time because when he is in, he is tough to get out, averaging 97.92 when he reaches 20 in a Test match innings. If Smith does get in, you will then have to employ the tactic of bowling a fourth to fifth stump line on a good length if you want to have a chance of troubling him.
If you are a spin bowler, it is going to be extremely difficult to get him out since he plays spin bowling so well, unless he makes a mistake and/or there is a little bit of turn or variation from the pitch itself.
So, what do I think of England’s prospects in Adelaide?
Well, I predicted England to win the second test match in Adelaide before the series, and while Australia won comfortably in the end in Brisbane, I still think England can win the second test match due to the patchy form of the Australian batsmen, and the conditions for the first-ever Ashes day/night test match likely to suit England better than Australia.
However, if England don’t win in Adelaide, I think things are looking grim for them as far as the rest of the series is concerned.
Joe Root needs to start making big runs and convert those fifties into hundreds, and Stuart Broad and James Anderson need to be at the top of their games if they want to defeat Australia in Adelaide.
It has the potential to be a classic!