Steven Smith’s is one of the most astonishing of cricket stories. As a young 20-year-old leg-spinner, Smith earned his baggy green in the ‘MCC Spirit of Cricket Series’, playing against Pakistan at Lord’s.
He made scores of 1 and 12 at number 8, and bowled 21 overs in the fourth innings, picking up three wickets. Today, he sits pretty at the top of the ICC rankings for Test batsmen and is the captain of Australia. Add to that an average of almost 62 (only second to the great Don Bradman), and we have one of the great Test batsmen of the current era.
However, things were not always so rosy for the Aussie captain. He had to graft his way into the team on the back of his leg spin and then hone his skill as a batsman after making the cut.
Along the way, he has played some fine innings that would ensure him a place in Test cricket’s Hall of Fame. Let’s take a look at five innings which have proven that the captain of Australia will have to be counted among the all-time greats when he finally decides to hang up his boots.
#5 111 vs England at Perth, 2013
In the midst of a wonderful Australian summer, the Kangaroos had thrashed England in the first two Tests of the Ashes. The third Test was played at Perth and England were looking to keep the series alive, while the Aussies were keen to wrap up the Ashes.
Against a full strength English bowling line up on a stereotypical fast and bouncy WACA pitch at Perth, the hosts were expected to negotiate the new ball safely and then pile on the runs with the help of a lightning fast outfield.
However, at 143/5 just a few minutes after lunch, things did not look so rosy anymore. Smith had already made his way up to number 5, but at this point, he had only Brad Haddin and the tail for company.
This was only his 15th Test match and he had made only one century so far. What followed was pure Aussie grit and determination. He batted all through the day to end on 103* with more to play the following day.
Along with Haddin and Mitchell Johnson, Smith conjured vital partnerships that took the team past 350 and eventually brought about an Australian victory.
#4 215 vs England at Lord’s, 2015
Returning to the venue of his Test debut, but this time as a solid number 3 batsman and the captain-in-waiting, Steven Smith produced one of his finest innings away from home. After having lost the first Test of their Ashes away tour, the blokes from Down Under would have wanted to get a good start in the second Test.
After losing David Warner for a brisk 38, Smith joined Chris Rogers at the crease. The two played a little more sedately, building a 284-run partnership that took Australia to safety. After Rogers’ departure, the right-hander powered on to a monumental 215.
Building partnerships along the way with Adam Voges, Mitchell Marsh and Peter Nevill, the Aussies were at a strong 533/5 when he was dismissed trying to go for some quick runs.
This maiden double century helped Australia gain a massive lead and then set a target of over 500. The Englishmen were expected to exploit the pace and bounce but were beaten at their own game.
#3 143 vs England at The Oval, 2015
After having fought back valiantly at Lord’s to level the series, the Aussies had surrendered the Ashes by losing the next two Tests. The final Test would be played more for pride and that is something that the Australians do not take lightly.
On a pitch where Stuart Broad and Steve Finn were producing disconcerting bounce, the lad from New South Wales proved to be the immovable object standing between England and another Test victory.
While none of his fellow teammates were able to play a definitive innings, the future captain braced himself and batted one whole day (two sessions on day 1 and the first on day 2) scoring 143.
While he was ably supported by sedate fifties from Warner and Voges and one of the blitzkrieg variety from Mitchell Starc, none of the other batsmen could really apply themselves. The Aussie total of 481 was built around the cornerstone innings of Steven Smith. England collapsed twice after a testing time on the field, giving the Australians a consolation victory by an innings.
#2 192 vs India at Melbourne, 2014
This was the series that saw the birth of Virat Kohli as a Test cricketer of great class. However, Smith’s contribution is often overlooked in this cracker of a series. India had lost the first Test by an agonising 48 runs and the second by only four wickets. This was not a meek India that would surrender but one that would take the fight to the Australians in their own home.
After losing Warner for a duck, some consolidation was provided through fifties from Rogers and Shane Watson. However, the pith of the innings came from a masterly 192 from the bat of Steven Smith. Fifties were also struck by Haddin and Ryan Harris, but based chiefly on Smith's exploits the hosts managed 530.
Even this was not a safe total as India amassed 465. While this innings might not have produced a victory, it certainly kept a fighting India at bay and prevented them from clawing their way back in the series.
#1 199 vs West Indies at Kingston, 2015
On a tricky Sabina Park pitch that had made life difficult for the visiting batsmen, the promising right-hander stood tall like a tree while others around him fell apart. Smith arrived at the crease only three deliveries into the match and the innings folded up within six runs of his dismissal. This would perhaps sum up how it had gone for the visitors.
The young batting mainstay had literally propped up the entire Australian innings single-handedly.
While Jerome Taylor and Kemar Roach were breathing fire, Jason Holder was able to extract steep bounce. On a tricky wicket with uneven bounce and some pretty quick bowling reminiscent of the famous West Indian fast bowling quartet, Smith dug in and played the innings of a lifetime, becoming the third Australian to be dismissed on 199.
He scored half the team’s total of 399.
Coming back in the second innings after the Windies folded up for 220, he once again scored an unbeaten fifty which eventually helped Australia seal the Test match and the series.