@Aadya_Wisden 4 minute read
Having endured a disappointing couple of months in the IPL, Steve Smith “found his hands” in spectacular fashion against India with a 62-ball century, No.4 in Wisden’s ODI innings of 2020.
Steve Smith 105 (66)
Australia v India, 1st ODI
Sydney Cricket Ground
November 27, 2020
“I just found a nice rhythm again.”
Playing his first ODI in nine months, Steve Smith blazed Australia’s third-fastest one-day century of all time, later admitting that he had rediscovered some of his batting form after a couple of scratchy months. A brilliant exhibition of one-day acceleration in the middle overs, the knock possibly set the tone for the entire tour.
At its core, the avatar was distinctly contrasting to the Smith we know, the Smith who, until that game, had struck the ball at a strike-rate of 86 in one-day cricket. In Sydney, he ended with a strike-rate of 159.
By the time Smith was in, Australia had already peeled 156 runs off India’s lacklustre bowling in the opening 27 overs. Over the course of the next 23 overs, 66 deliveries out of which belonged to Smith, Aaron Finch’s century became a mere side note.
Smith’s first scoring shot was off a loose full-toss that he readily dispatched past the mid-wicket ropes. The platform was already laid, all Smith had to do was to continue stepping on the gas. He went about the task diligently, like he always does, but there was something different this time – even in those robotic whips and pulls, there was refreshing effervescence.
Only a month ago in the IPL, Smith was managing frustratingly indifferent returns against these very Indian bowlers, but suddenly “found his hands” as he described, batting with effortless impunity. Against Ravindra Jadeja and Yuzvendra Chahal, Smith instinctively used his feet, carving a floated ball over covers, or using the same trajectory and hoicking it past mid wicket. It wasn’t long before he was toying with the field.
It wasn’t all wham bam either. He began fluently but steadily, collecting his first 21 runs off as many balls. As soon as Australia cruised past 200, India’s bowling began to droop, and Smith started taking charge. In the next 15 balls, he collected 45, blowing away the spin duo, along with the quicks, who had entered their second spells. Off the next 17 balls, he added a further 30, pushing past the three-figure mark, his third ODI ton at the Sydney Cricket Ground, doing it all in just 62 balls.
It was a knock that had all the elements of a Smith classic – the lofted drive with extended arms, the fidgety cut through point, the remarkably wristy swivel-glance and the jerky swing over long-on. And yet, there was a welcome layer of aggression on top of it.
It started with a full-toss and it ended with one, a harmless ball that he tried to carve to the offside, but which bizarrely ended up crashing into his stumps. Smith was visibly disappointed, but India wasn’t spared: two days later, he almost exactly replicated the knock.
48.1, Jasprit Bumrah to Steve Smith, FOUR
Jasprit Bumrah, even on his off day, cannot be dealt with lightly, but even he wasn’t stopping Smith’s free-flowing inventiveness that day. Already taken for plenty, Bumrah tried a slow yorker well outside off stump, a handy ball to bowl at the death, but Smith calmly brought out a pre-meditated sweep. He took the ball from outside off and lobbed it over square leg’s head, past a chasing long leg fielder. A hell of a shot to play for someone on 95.