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‘He just doesn’t make any mistakes’ – Ponting lauds ‘genius’ Smith

by Wisden Staff 3 minute read

Former Australia captain Ricky Ponting believes that Steve Smith deserves to go down as one of the all-time greats, after Australia’s run-machine registered his third double-century on the second day of the fourth Ashes Test at Old Trafford on Thursday, September 5.

Having resumed the day on 60, Smith motored along to 211, with ample support from the rest of the order, as Australia declared their first innings on a massive 497/8.

“You hear all sorts of words, ‘genius’ is one that comes to mind,” Ponting told cricket.com.au. “A remarkable innings again today. It’s his application to what he does. He just doesn’t make any mistakes. His concentration levels are obviously unbelievably good.

“He’s got a game plan that’s working incredibly well for him to the point where it just looks like teams have no idea how they’re going to bowl to him, where they’re going to bowl to him, how they’re going to get him out.

“Right now, he’s on top of his game, but he’s also got every opposition team exactly where he wants them.”

England did manage to force an error, as Jack Leach induced an outside edge off Smith’s bat, which was pouched by Ben Stokes when the right-hander was on 118. However, the euphoria was short-lived, as replays showed that Leach had overstepped. It gave Smith a life-line when Australia should’ve been reduced to 273/6.

“He’s only been out nine times lbw in his last 99 innings, so you know if you’re bowling straight, you’re not going to get him out,” Ponting said.

“He doesn’t hit the ball in the air through the on-side and he doesn’t miss them and get lbw. He’s not missing on the inside of his bat, [so] try and challenge the outside of his bat for long periods of time, maybe put some protection on the off-side.

“This has all been spoken about before and most teams have tried it and they’ve tried around the wicket, they’ve tried over the wicket, they’ve tried short, they’ve tried full. He’ll work out a style of play that’s going to be better than what the opposition’s got.”

By the time he was dismissed, Smith’s career average had shot up to a staggering 64.64. Among batsmen with a minimum of 2,000 Test runs, only Sir Don Bradman has a higher average [99.94].

“If he keeps playing and plays as much as we think he can play, he’s in his early thirties now, he’s got four, five, six years of good cricket ahead of him, which if you add it up, that’s probably another 80-90 Test matches,” Ponting said.

“Then he’s played 150 games and could have all sorts of numbers and records by then, and let’s hope he does, because the way he’s going about it now, the way he’s playing, he deserves to get the rewards from that.

“You don’t always get those things in life, but what he’s doing, he deserves to go down as one of the greats.”

As for Smith himself, he said that England’s short-ball ploy, born out of the concussion he sustained at Lord’s, where he was struck by a Jofra Archer bouncer, worked in his favour.

“I faced a lot of short-pitched bowling and haven’t had too many issues,” Smith said after play. “The opposition bowling there means they can’t hit my pad or nick me off. It softens up the ball too and that plays into my hands.”

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