Back to the future: the remaking of Steven Smith

“I’m back, baby!” That was Steven Smith’s statement after a cover drive during his unbeaten 80 in the first ODI against England in Adelaide two weeks ago.

He’s okay. Big back as he helped himself to an unbeaten double century against an unlucky West Indies attack.

“I think from day one against England, where I sort of did the job that I’ve been doing, it felt really good straight away,” Smith said after his 200 not out in Perth. “Obviously I was able to spend some time in the middle in those matches and I just brought that same form or feeling into this test match.”

This was far from his best innings given the standard of bowling he faced. It is his second in as many test matches after breaking an 18-month drought in Galle in July. But it was one of his smoothest and most fluid and his first since he has been able to cope with the changes he started making in Sri Lanka. He has self-proclaimed that he’s hitting the best he’s had in six years, raising some eyebrows from his teammates given the almost unparalleled heights he reached in the 2019 Ashes.

β€œHe averaged 110 in a series in 2019 where I think the conditions were tough, it was a snoop and he made the hitting ridiculously easy,” said Marnus Labuschagne on Wednesday night. “From a spectator, that’s the best I’ve seen him hit. But in terms of feel, he’d say it looked ugly. That’s just the open stance, playing the biting ball, being a little bit more frontal, that’s what he felt.” was right for that time. But he averaged 110 or something for the series, so I don’t really think it matters how Steve Smith hits, he’s going to find a way to score points.”

In terms of look and feel, this was anything but ugly. Significantly, perhaps his most dominant innings since Ashes would come in Perth in 2019. It was here in late 2019 that New Zealand, mainly through Neil Wagner, found a method to nullify Smith’s Bradman-esque scoring streak.

“I probably didn’t notice it right away,” Smith said of Wagner’s tactics that became his kryptonite. “I’ve only noticed it in the last six to 12 months. But I wanted to go back to how I was probably batting in 2013/14. I was much more on the side there.

While I was still contributing to the team, I probably wasn’t getting the big runs I’d like

“I was pulling balls in front of the square like I was out there in these innings and I think when I do that I put myself in good positions. I felt like a few years my [bottom] hand was so far around the bat, closed, and I was leading with the chest, all I could do was really help them on their way behind the square instead of using force for the square. That’s essentially it. I’m definitely in much better positions.”

In Perth he equaled Sir Donald Bradman’s number 29 Test Centuries looks like another player. He’s talked before about how he’s changed his starting point, his trigger travel, and his body angle at the crease.

But as well as getting more scoring opportunities, his scoring percentage is being recalibrated to the level that made him the world’s most prolific Test batsman.

Between the Ashes 2019 and the Sri Lanka tour, he has batted at 42.55 in Test cricket, compared to his strike rate of 54.07. He still faced enough balls to score heavily, but his open stance, open chest, exaggerated back and cross technique, and closed club face closed off his scoring zones before the wicket through both the off and on sides to the point. where he faced over 200 balls four times, only reaching three figures once. Scoring points had become a tedious job for him. He didn’t fail, but he didn’t convert at his normal pace.

In Perth, the West Indies just couldn’t contain him. He moved quickly to 50 in 74 balls on the opening day. He actually slowed down on day two, partly because he had to restart his innings, but also because the West Indies bowled better areas. But he reached a century in 180 balls, with only 10 boundaries. He walked to his double century in 311 balls.

“I suppose the reason for my little change in technique is that I wasn’t happy with where I was at with my batting,” said Smith. “While I was still contributing to the team, I probably didn’t get the big runs I’d like to have.

“But I think now with the way I can play and the way teams have bowled against me, I’ve had to adapt a little bit and where I am with my body and my hands, I feel like I’m opening up. ” all over the ground rather than probably just behind the square on the leg side, and I can hit the ball in several areas that I probably could hit before. So I feel in a good place.”

He is now fourth alongside Bradman on Australia’s all-time century makers list. He is one behind Matthew Hayden and three shy of Steve Waugh. Chances are he can take them out by the end of this summer. But he was less confident in Ricky Ponting’s record of 41 Test centuries for Australia.

“That’s a long way off, I’m not sure,” Smith said. “I’ll be 33, 34 next year. I’m not sure how long I’ll be playing. But we’ll see, 41 is certainly a long way off. There’s a lot of exhibition games I think in the next year for us so we’ll see how many I Hopefully I can get a few more in that time. We’ll go from there.”

Alex Malcolm is an Associate Editor at ESPNcricinfo

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Merry C. Vega is a highly respected and accomplished news author. She began her career as a journalist, covering local news for a small-town newspaper. She quickly gained a reputation for her thorough reporting and ability to uncover the truth.

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