Steve Smith is a beast. He is a Test match beast that the best bowlers in the world haven’t been able to tame. After all, how can a batsman return to Test cricket after serving a demoralizing one-year ban, and score two hundreds in the same Test away from home in the most challenging conditions? This isn’t a normal Test by any stretch of the imagination too. This is the high-octane Ashes battle and Australia is playing in England where the crowds love to hate them.
And yet. Steve Smith loves these challenges. He thrives in them. That is the reason that it isn’t the greatest surprise that Smith had scores of 144 and 142 in the first Ashes 2019 Test at Edgbaston. The value of these hundreds is of paramount significance to Australia because they have now given them a chance at a probable victory. Things looked rather dire for the visitors in the first innings when they were reeling at 122-8. But Smith’s 144 hundred testing batting conditions gave them a respectable 284. In the second innings, after conceding a 90-run lead, it was Smith’s 142 that held the innings together and helped Australia eventually post a dominating 487-7 (dec.).
The result of the match is yet to be decided but Smith’s twin hundreds, despite the crowd booing him constantly, have been a true testimony of grit, determination, valor and skill of the highest order. He has now become only the fourth man in Test history to score 140+ in both innings of a Test. Also, he now has 10 Ashes hundred – the joint third in history after Don Bradman, Jack Hobbs and Steve Waugh.
And now, after those two hundreds, Smith’s Test average stands at an incredible 62.96 with 25 hundreds and 24 fifties along with 6485 runs. This average is now second only to the great Donald Bradman’s 99.94.
These are truly astonishing numbers and feats. And one can say with some confidence that Steve Smith now is well on his way to become one of the greatest Test batsmen of all time and is a genuine modern Test great already.
The twin hundreds in the first Ashes Test are perhaps the most important ones of Smith’s career. The 2018 ball-tampering scandal in South Africa, where Smith, along with two other Australian cricketers were banned for a year from international cricket, was the lowest point in his life. Smith admitted that he had considered retirement during his ban and had thought he would never play the game again.
Even before the Ashes began, Smith has mentioned that he didn’t feel he was in rhythm and he had to practice hard before the first Test to try and get back in shape. The results have been mind-boggling.
“I’m just pleased to have done what I have achieved over the last four days and been able to put the team in a really good position going in to the last day. I’m over the moon, it’s what dreams are made of, sort of thing,” Smith was quoted as saying to the press after the end of the 4th day’s play in Edgbaston.
Steven Smith’s redemption arc has been phenomenal. That it has come in the Ashes makes it that much more laudable. Regardless of the outcome of the first Ashes Test, England should be concerned and so should be the other teams in the world. Steve Smith is back in the format he loves the most. And he looks hungrier than he has ever done.