West Indies v Australia, Super Eight, Group F, St Lucia May 11, 2010

Attacking Smith spins towards success


Watch out, Australia have another blond legspinner. While the quick bowlers have been wreaking havoc and creating headlines, Steven Smith has quietly been going about his work. He hasn't generated as much conversation as the pacemen, but that's often because the opposition have been staring at defeat by the time Smith gets the ball.

However, he has been incredibly impressive and figures of 3 for 20 against West Indies were due reward for a player who has made rapid strides over the past few months. He has leapfrogged Nathan Hauritz in the Twenty20 team, which is a notable achievement because Hauritz enjoyed a profitable home season.

The highlight of Smith's performance against West Indies was a ripping leg break that drew Kieron Pollard out of his crease and then he silenced the St Lucia crowd when he removed local hero Darren Sammy with a caught and bowled. Again it was a ball with flight and dip that played a key part in the batsman's error.

It reinforces the attacking mindset Australia have brought to this tournament - the legspinner instead of the offspinner. Smith, though, also brings his batting into the equation and has already played a crucial innings in the World Twenty20 with 27 off 18 balls against Bangladesh after Australia had been 65 for 6.

In first-class cricket, run-scoring in his stronger suit, with an average of 56.22 from 13 matches coupled with four hundreds and he could well earn a Test place in the top six. Twenty20 is the one format where his bowling has excelled, with 29 wickets at 16.27. He provides further evidence of the success that is on offer for a brave spinner; some days he'll get neck ache watching the ball disappear into the stands, but rewards can be plentiful.

"It's been pretty exciting coming over here and playing in my first World Cup," he said. "The wickets here are quite slow and I think my pace of bowling is well suited. It was good to contribute today and take a few wickets to help us to victory. The team has moulded together beautifully but we haven't come here just to make the semi-finals."

One significant advantage for Smith has been the top-order destruction dished out by the fast men, which has meant teams have been well behind the rate when Smith has come on to bowl. His challenge will be greater should a team be 60 for 1 after the Powerplays. However, there hasn't been any element of Michael Clarke hiding his young spinner, who has often bowled his four overs straight through.

"Smithy, like a lot of guys in their first World Cup, have been outstanding with their attitude," Clarke said. "They have taken it upon themselves to be the one to win us the game. Smithy has bowled well throughout the whole tournament and although he got his rewards today his performances have been fantastic all the way. He wants to bowl, it doesn't matter who's batting and that's important at the highest level."

Throughout the tournament, Smith has held his own against teams with impressive records against spin and he will come up against Pakistan for the second time in two weeks in the semi-final on Friday. Rather than being daunted by the prospect, he is relishing another contest.

"They'll be coming pretty hard at me I'd imagine with our three quicks bowling over 150kph - when a spinner comes they'll attack me as they did in the last game," he said. "It's just about me changing my pace and missing the middle of the bat. If I do that I'll be in with a chance."

And then, of course, there is one enticing prospect looming. If Australia overcome Pakistan and England overcome Sri Lanka there will be an Ashes final. There's a certain blond legspinner who dominated that rivalry for more than a decade. Are any England batsmen getting twitchy?

Andrew McGlashan is assistant editor of Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Stuart on May 13, 2010, 13:40 GMT

    Everyone; let's forget averages - T20 is just about who plays best on the day. Pakistan's bowling is good in any situation. Their batting I'm afraid is brittle. Australia's batting is tough to pick but SOMEBODY seems to get enough runs regardless. The big theme of this tournament for me is that NOBODY's batsmen have been able to cope with the pace of Tait, followed by Nannes and Johnson. Regardless of when Pakistan bat - they must be patient/hold together early and then they can get enough runs off Watson, Smith and any part-time bowlers to post a good target/chase down Australia provided they field well. It's not impossible; just hard to see Pakistan turning the tables given the workmanlike nature of Australia's batting and dominance of Australia's bowling.

  • Mark on May 13, 2010, 6:46 GMT

    Extremely exciting how quickly this young bloke has improved.All I can say is,forget Hauritz and get Smith into the test team ASAP,his potentialL is unbelievable.He is the most exciting young cricketer in Australia by a country mile and is the most exciting I have seen in my time(39 years old).Not only does he bowl legspin,but he smashes the ball as far as anyone and fields as good as anyone at the age of 20.I'm loathe to talk young cricketers up too soon,but I think this bloke is an absolute freak.What do others think!

  • Dummy4 on May 13, 2010, 5:47 GMT

    Heres the thing with t20. Everyone would agree that this form of the game is highly erratic and unpredictable. As such, it should be no ones suprise if any of the teams take the trophy. Because its so erratic, it takes MANY more games for a clear trend to emerge regarding the best teams. Pakistan, especially with the recent loss of great players like Yousef, have a lousy batting line-up in both test and odi formats (lets be honest). Given thats the case there is no logical reason why they would magically excel at t20 games. Whilst they are probably within the top 4 best teams of the comp, they are not the best team, and I think deep down most Pakistanis know this. My verdict: Aus is the better team on paper, however because of the nature of t20, Pakistan still has a chance to win on Fri.

  • Dummy4 on May 13, 2010, 1:26 GMT

    @ Farhan The only thing you got right in your comment is that Afridi is capable of single handedly winning a match, but that is the only thing going for Pakistan, (and a miracle). Allah better be watching otherwise Pakistan is toast! Oz fast bowlers will rip through and Smith, Watson,Clarke & Hussey will clean up the tail - Oz by 50!!!!! As far as averages are concerned, they don't mean as much in T20 as strike rates. Kallis probably ave 30 but @ a S/R of about 100, Warner probably averages 30 but with a S/R of 150+, this = Warner the better T20 player. In a test you would take Kallis everytime. Aust v England final, but I think Sri Lanka are half a chance - Jayasurya is due a BIG one.

  • Bhanu on May 13, 2010, 1:23 GMT

    Miracle can happen only ones. If people are praying to Allah to defeat is not going to happen this time. Aussies have trashed every one, winners of four world cups. I would give Pakistan a chance against anybody not against Aussies. Quality and depth of aussies is far more backed by great catching. Austraila vs England in finals. Aussie winnnnn

  • Bhanu on May 13, 2010, 1:20 GMT

    Miracle can happen only ones. If people are praying to Allah to defeat is not going to happen this time. Aussies have trashed every one, winners of four world cups. I would give Pakistan a chance against anybody not against Aussies. Quality and depth of aussies is far more backed by great catching. Austraila vs England in finals. Aussie winnnnn

  • David on May 12, 2010, 22:48 GMT

    I'd hardly call a team that has lost 3 out of 5 games an immovable object. Particulalry against a team who has won 5 from 5. There can be little doubt which team has been the best in this tournament so far. But this is 20-20 cricket and the best team doesn't always win.

  • Dummy4 on May 12, 2010, 18:38 GMT

    i seriuosly cant understand the pakistanis supporters.dey r sayin australia r luki wen deyve lost 3 out of 5 games but dey r in the semi final,dis wud nt hve happen in any oder sport.dey need 2 understand the pakistan team r the worst fielding team ive ever watch.on the oder hand australia r a very gud fielding team,verypowerful team.very gud opening pairs a gud middle order n the best bowling attack.gud luk pakistan,i no u dnt need it coz ur always luki.

  • Dummy4 on May 12, 2010, 17:37 GMT

    Whats this about afridi doin well in the big matches?.......He only did it last year.......Talk about big matches aussies have the best record!

  • Dummy4 on May 12, 2010, 15:53 GMT

    Aussies and English finals is my guess based on form book though Michael Clarke looks out of sorts in this format of the game

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