Australia’s Test captain Tim Paine put teammate Steve Smith’s incredible red-ball success down to his ability to read, and scupper, the opposition’s bowling plans on the fly.
Smith scripted a fairytale comeback to Test cricket, with twin hundreds in the 2019 Ashes series opener at Edgbaston. Smith’s aggregate of 286 runs accounted for 37% of all of Australia’s runs in the Test. With a career average of 62.96 – the second-highest of all time, behind Don Bradman’s 99.94, among those to have batted at least 50 times in the format – Smith is easily the most prolific contemporary batsman in the five-day game.
A list of batsmen who have scored more Test hundreds against England than Steve Smith’s 10:
— Wisden (@WisdenCricket) August 4, 2019
“I think the beauty of Steve is you can come up with a plan, but he’s good enough to adapt really quickly,” Paine said at New Road’s County Ground, where the Australians just wound up a drawn three-day warm-up game against Worcestershire.
“I’ve seen him do it between balls, I’ve seen him do it when guys have targeted him from one end a certain way and a completely different way from the other end.
“I think that’s what makes him the best player in the world – his ability to adapt to any plan that is thrown at him. I think he processes it quicker than other players and adapts on the spot.”
Paine’s assessment of the former captain is in line with that of head coach Justin Langer, who called Smith the “best problem-solver in the game”. While knocks of this nature are nothing new for the formerly No.1-ranked batsman in the world, the Edgbaston epic stood out, not least because of the incredible lack of rust he showed despite not having played in the format for well over a year.
So clinical was Smith’s performance that it drew boundless praise from Steve Waugh, who was himself renowned for his precise, unrelenting approach to batting.
“He knows the opposition – what they’re trying to do, how they’re trying to get him out – and he seems to have an answer for everything,” Waugh had told Wide World of Sports during the first Test.
“He’s an incredible player. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone quite like him, and his appetite for runs is second to none. His technique is amazing; it’s unique, but he knows what he’s doing, he knows how to score runs. It’s like he analyses every ball, and it’s like a computer – he spits out the answer.”