After securing the Ashes on Sunday, September 8, Australia captain Tim Paine has lauded Steve Smith, saying he is a “pretty handy” player to have, and warned the world that “he’s getting better”.
Smith, in just five innings, has scored 671 runs, with three centuries and two half-centuries. His double-century in Manchester in the fourth Test put Australia in a position of strength, and his impact has been all the more conspicuous by the struggles of the England batsmen.
Paine had no hesitation in saying Smith was “the best player” he had ever seen. “He’s pretty handy, I won’t lie,” said Paine. “He’s the best player I’ve ever seen. Obviously his 200 was phenomenal, but yesterday [day four] to push the game forward, put England under pressure… he’s got a lot of courage to take teams on.”
— Wisden (@WisdenCricket) September 8, 2019
Smith has had a remarkable change in fortunes, after spending a year out of international cricket following his 12-month ban for his role in the Cape Town ball-tampering scandal in March 2018. He is already the highest Test scorer of the 2019 calendar, despite not playing his first match till August, and leapfrogged Virat Kohli to become the No.1 Test batsman in the ICC rankings within just two Tests of his return.
Since his comeback, the hunger has been evident. “Anyone who’s watched him bat know the talent, hunger and skill that he has got,” said the Australia captain. “People don’t see how driven he is and how he trains, eats and sleeps batting.
“He is just a genius and I never had any doubt he would come back and be the player he was. The scary thing is he’s getting better. I don’t know where it is going to stop but we are enjoying being on the ride, that is for sure.”
The final Ashes Test will begin at The Oval on September 12.