Steven Smith has challenged India’s pace attack to bring on the short bowling during the Test series, believing if they focus on banging the ball in at him it will work in Australia’s favour.
In Australia’s most recent Test series, against New Zealand in the 2019-2020 season, Neil Wagner produced a sustained short-ball attack to Smith. The left-armer removed Smith four times with the short delivery – twice caught at square leg, once at leg gully, and once fending to the off-side gully – but Smith still averaged 42.80 in the three matches.
Though Smith did not score a century he soaked up a lot of pressure for his team-mates by wearing down the bowlers. Australia scored more than 400 in each of their first innings during the series. Smith’s strike-rate in that series was 34.13, comfortably the lowest of his career, but he is more than happy to play a role for the team.
“It’s no dramas for me. I just play the game and sum up the conditions, how they’re trying to get me out and being able to counter that,” Smith told News Corp. “I mean, a few different oppositions have tried it and they’ve certainly found it more difficult to [execute it] the way Wagner did. He’s got an amazing skill set where his speeds go up and down…everything is between your ribs and your head.
“If teams are trying to get me out like that it’s probably a big benefit for the team because it takes a lot out of people’s bodies if you continually bowl short. I’ve faced a lot of short bowling in my life and I haven’t had too many stresses with it. I suppose we’ll just wait and see.”
Smith was not part of the previous series between these teams as he was serving his suspension for the Newlands ball-tampering scandal but on his return to Test cricket had a magnificent Ashes series despite missing one Test after being felled by a Jofra Archer bouncer at Lord’s.
The match-ups between the two pace attacks is one of the most keenly awaited contests of the series. Australia will likely line-up with Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood while India will certainly have Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami and may be able to call on Ishant Sharma if he recovers from the side injury sustained at the IPL. Umesh Yadav and the highly-rated Navdeep Saini are also part of their Test squad.
In the series two years ago, Australia’s pace attack faded in the latter two Tests as India won the series with a victory at the MCG and a draw at the SCG where they piled up more than 600, but coach Justin Langer has no doubt what they deliver this time.
“A world-class bowling attack. And two years better,” he said. “I can’t wait to see them go. And we’ve got good depth as well. James Pattinson who has come back from that back injury, we saw how powerful that was during the last Ashes in England. Michael Neser keeps playing well over and over again. And Sean Abbott, every Shield player I’m talking to they’re all saying he is bowling fast.”
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