Best since Bradman?
Steve Smith continued to build his seemingly irresistible case for Best Since Bradman status with twin tons against England in the First Test at Edgbaston. While his efforts might not have been enough to impress the boorish Birmingham crowd, with his milestones greeted with loud boos, they will be remembered more fondly by history.
You throw to him in the nets and you literally feel like you can’t get him out and there’s no batsman like that.Australian Coach – Justin Langer
Combining with the bottom order on the first day of the match, his first innings 144 helped rescue his team from disaster. His 142 in the second, in symphony with Matthew Wade, set the team up for their ultimate victory. In doing so he became the quickest man since Bradman to register 25 Test Centuries and he joined The Don as one of only five Australians to score twin centuries in Ashes Tests.
While David Warner was universally expected to be selected in the Australian team for the First Test, it was a shock when he was joined at the top of the order by Cameron Bancroft. The questionable nature of the selection not helped by the twin failures of both bats in Birmingham.
Warner’s status as a world class batter is not in question but Bancroft’s claim to incumbency is a little more shaky. Having won his place in the Test team two years ago on the back of a hot fortnight at Shield level, his return has similarly come on the back of one innings. Despite being afforded more opportunities than many other Test hopefuls, with the exception of his debut innings he has rarely looked at home at the top level.
He might have proven Steve Waugh’s pre-Test claims of him being the best short leg he’d ever seen but with a Test Match batting average of just 27 his position seems difficult to justify. Perhaps being liked by the coach can help you into places your form can’t.
Pick a man in form, who’d have thunk it?
While we acknowledge that picking the Australian Cricket Team takes more than a look at the Sheffield Shield run tallies, we have also long felt that they have made it more difficult than it needs to be. The curious case of Matthew Wade is the perfect example.
Despite the Australian batting lineup struggling throughout the last summer, the selectors excuses for not selecting the heaviest run scorer at domestic level began to border on the ridiculous. He scored them too low in the order was one explanation, when he continued to score them higher up the order his run scoring wasn’t needed because there was already a keeper in the Aussie team. The concept that scoring runs without the burden of keeping might be easier, wasn’t one that crossed the minds of the men responsible for putting the best Australian team on the park.
While his century on the fourth day is no guarantee that Wade is the long term solution at number six for Australia but lets hope that it does prompt the selectors to reward weight of runs. It is the currency upon which Australia’s dominance of World Cricket was built and should be the foundation upon which the next climb to the top begins.
Ali saves his worst for The Ashes. Again.
In the 12 months leading into The Ashes, Moeen Ali proved to be one of the games leading allrounders capturing 45 wickets at 23.13. Unfortunately for him and England he was a shadow of this player against Australia and faces the prospect of being dropped once again as a result of an Ashes flop.
While even Ali himself might be hoping for the axe to fall so that he can be spared from another prolonged Ashes nightmare, opposing spinner Nathan Lyon would be hoping to cross paths with him again at Lord’s. The Aussie spinner has long had the measure of Ali and captured his wicket for the eighth and ninth time in Birmingham.
The Goat seals the deal
Not only did Lyon dismiss his opposite number cheaply twice, he also managed to make the Edgbaston pitch appear like a landmine only 24 hours after it seemed lifeless when Ali had use of it. It is for this reason that he is unlikely to have the opportunity to dismiss his bunny for a tenth time in London.
He will however fancy his chances to bowl Australia to victory again after his final day heroics in Birmingham. A highly under rated bowler, Lyon tore through the English batting lineup to take six fourth innings wickets and in doing so captured his 350th Test Wicket.
The 31-year-old is at the top of his powers and appears well placed to make a genuine charge at 500 Test Wickets. What a finish to his career that would be after having spent much of its early stages with his position in the team regularly under question.