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

Attacking Smith spins towards success

34

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

  • stuartk319 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.

  • map27871 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!

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • banu111 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

  • banu111 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

  • slappinjax 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.

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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

  • stuartk319 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.

  • map27871 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!

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • banu111 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

  • banu111 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

  • slappinjax 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.

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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

  • DarkBatter on May 12, 2010, 13:57 GMT

    Think of it this way West Indies won 3 games, including matches against India and England, who are fairly powerful sides. Pakistan have won 2 matches, against Bangladesh and SA, both of which ended up at the bottom of their table. Australia thrashed West Indies Australia have thrashed all Sub Continental sides Australia thrashed Pakistan in theyre last series Plud Nannes, Tait, Johnson as well as Warner and Watson All this equals to?

  • popcorn on May 12, 2010, 11:53 GMT

    Nobody,repeat nobody, will grudge Australia the Twenty20 World Cup 2010 as the most dominant and consistent performers..

  • mta316 on May 12, 2010, 10:53 GMT

    It is a semi final and its anyones game. No doubt looking at the current tournament's form Australia will be the favourites. Only way I see it the Pakistan can win it is to play freely with an open mind.They shoud have a plan but not be stagnent to it e.g. Hafeez bowling in the first 6 overs. While Australia's strength in this tournament has been their trio of fast bowlers and their openers. So they would be relying on them. For Pakistan apart from having flexible plans they need to enjoy their cricket and the results will take care of itself.

  • cryptdweller on May 12, 2010, 10:38 GMT

    @ John Boyd...before the start of this tournament Afridi was the 2nd highest wicket taker for Pakistan and that 54 high score came at a time when it was most needed.. Pakistan will be playing 3rd consecutive semi final and if they beat Australia it'll be 3rd consecutive Final and its a wicket more or less like the one in Qadafi stadium so lets just wait and hope for the best...

  • on May 12, 2010, 9:50 GMT

    @ joriji: Cornering brings out the best of you? I doubt that, that Australian series was pathetic. You couldn't of been more cornered in your life and you guys did nothing, i was embarrassing to watch. I was actually wanting you guys to win one game to make it competitive. If recent results show, the Pakistan Cricket Team under pressure only creates rumble not diamonds :P.

  • Chris_P on May 12, 2010, 9:50 GMT

    Yeah, unfortunately in T20, the law of averages probably applies moreso than other formats. No matter how talented you are, you just cannot keep beating a team like Pakistan this many times without dropping a game. What did Vitas Gerulaitis say after he finally beat John McEnroe? "No one beats Vitas Gerulaitis 18 times in a row, no one!" Shane Watson under-rated? Have you bothered looking at his stats this past year or are you so shortsighted sighted and so one eyed? And this is one Aussie who has plenty of time for Afridi as a cricketer, when on song, he is awesome. He was sensational for South Australia in the Big Bash.

  • Bobby_Talyarkhan on May 12, 2010, 9:47 GMT

    How incredibly exciting to see an attacking young leggie in action so soon after warnie left. and he is a terrific batsman as well! full marks to the aussies for unearthing another gem - incredible how a country of 20 odd million peope can produce so many top class sportspeople. What a contrast to the hulking giants of the subcontinent, mired in corruption and wealthy in everything except performance!

  • Bone101 on May 12, 2010, 9:42 GMT

    I'm an Aussie, but I love the way Pakistan play cricket (when they're playing well!). Pakistan definitely have bragging rights when it comes to this format so far, and well done to them, they've mastered it well before we have in Aus. Hope we can steady the ship - I feel we have a better team for it this time around. Bring on a cracking match I say! Although i'll say one thing is for certain, if Pakistan don't hold there chances in the field, we should roll it in!

  • Anubhav-The-Hectic on May 12, 2010, 9:35 GMT

    Pakistan are shocking. They got in from pure luck, and will get hammered in their semi.

  • Farhan-Sg on May 12, 2010, 9:25 GMT

    To the 'mates' that replied: those stats will give you no solace when Afridi starts smacking you all over St.Lucia! Make your peace now, because come the 14th you're going down.

    The boyz are coming at you with a vengence, be Afridi...be very Afridi (ominous tone)!!

  • Joji_ on May 12, 2010, 8:40 GMT

    @John Boyd: Don't even get me started on the averages. I do admit afridi might be a bit overhyped and clearly Pakistanis are the underdogs going into the semis.

    As for the stats, most of Australian players have played only a handful of T20 internationals. Your previous wining record is 20 out of 34 matches as compared to Pakistan's 24 out of 35 matches. Mind you this includes the current bad patch Pakistan team is facing in this world cup.

    Your highest run getter is D Hussey with a total of 440 runs (averaging a pathetic 27). 6 Pakistanis have more runs, kamran akmal, mishah, salman butt, afridi, shoaib malik and yonis khan. Your highest wicket taker is M Johnson (27 wkts), with pakistanis : (ajmal -30, afridi-40, gul-43).

    We do admit our chances are slim, but being cornered brings out the best in us. Which I hope will the case on Friday.

  • on May 12, 2010, 8:17 GMT

    Like all truly great players, Afridi only shows up to play for the really big games. Averages and statistics don't mean much to him.

  • Far359 on May 12, 2010, 7:54 GMT

    @ John Boyd Afridi's highest score was a match winning innings...therefore it is better then ur 7 Aus line up!

    @ Sean Chapman do i need to give u the link for the previous worldcup? where Aus was outclassed by Pakistan? Pakistan only lost in this event coz of their poor fielding...else they would have crushed Aus like the last worldcup!

    The most over rated cricketer is Shane Watson...has he ever played a good innings widthout getting a chance?

  • al2qb on May 12, 2010, 7:23 GMT

    @sean and john, theres no doubt that mr farhan has got his stats messed up, and so far australia have proved their the side to beat this world cup, but guyz chill even tho im a pakistani supporter i would admit pakistan r not deserving of this position but that doesnt play down the fact that a pakistan team thats qualified outa no where is by far the most dangerous opponent for the aussies now coz i dont think anyone else would give them a run for their money like Pak would now not even the english. U dont need to give us no links, maybe u shud see the links of last years world cup wen a down n out pakistan came outta no where to beat the tournament favorites South Africa, australia has had the biggest wins in the tournament so far please keep in mind pak lost by just 34 runs chasing 191, compared to how the others lost, anyways that loss is part of the past now..lets look forward to a good game.. cheers guys

  • muhmmad7676 on May 12, 2010, 7:12 GMT

    this time also the final would be between pakistan and sri lanka

  • yasir22 on May 12, 2010, 7:03 GMT

    @john.....mere averages dnt give u idea hw much impact afridi has on the game. no doubt he has been misfiring also but he was the one who made the difference in imp games in 2009 WC....and regarding ur stats, see the win / loss avg of both teams in this format, u might have fair idea of where ur team stands....n above all we r the reigning champs. @sean....we deserved to be there bcz we were amongst the two top teams of our group...we did loose but we were competitive n cricket is lyk that...

  • jamrith on May 12, 2010, 6:42 GMT

    I agree with Farhan-SG, the Aussie luck is going to run out in the semis which is being played in St.Lucia not Barbados. The Aussies have managed to get out of jail repeatedly against the 3 sub-continental opponents ( forget India, they are the pits) but they will come a cropper against Ajmal, Rehman and Afridi on May 14. Steve Smith is mediocre especially when compared to the one and only Warney.

  • on May 12, 2010, 6:34 GMT

    Be afraid aussies, be very very afriad.. mwahahahahahahah

  • asimnk on May 12, 2010, 6:09 GMT

    Pakistani guyz now on charge..its look very hard to escape..Auses need to be ready for them...Spiner Ajmal can distroy the Auses alone

  • on May 12, 2010, 5:56 GMT

    @Farhan-Sg, you mean the same Afridi who averages a very mediocre 17.50 in Twenty20? His highest ever t20 score out of 59 innings is 54. Probably one of the most overated cricketers of this generation. Heres a stat for you:

    7 of the Aus line-up have higher averages than Afridi with the bat.

    So don't get your hopes up.

  • on May 12, 2010, 5:41 GMT

    Farhan - do I need to give you the link for the first Aus v Pak game in the event?

    Pakistan scraped into the semi finals, only because NZ and SA sucked as much as PAK has.

  • leggetinoz on May 12, 2010, 5:30 GMT

    @Farhan- your probably right, we have beat you guys every game we have played you this year in all forms of the game and mostly quite convincigly. Law of averages show your probably due a win against us. I wouldn't call yourselves an immovable object. Just scraping into the semi's is hardly immovable.

  • on May 12, 2010, 5:12 GMT

    Its too early to comment him!!!But Seeing his standards ...he might be the perfect replacement for the legend Mr.Shane Warne!!!!

  • Farhan-Sg on May 12, 2010, 3:13 GMT

    There's not going to be any Ashes final - the OZ juggernaut is about to meet an immovable object in the semis. Afridi and his boyz are gunning for you - you can run...pray that Afridi shows some mercy.

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  • Farhan-Sg on May 12, 2010, 3:13 GMT

    There's not going to be any Ashes final - the OZ juggernaut is about to meet an immovable object in the semis. Afridi and his boyz are gunning for you - you can run...pray that Afridi shows some mercy.

  • on May 12, 2010, 5:12 GMT

    Its too early to comment him!!!But Seeing his standards ...he might be the perfect replacement for the legend Mr.Shane Warne!!!!

  • leggetinoz on May 12, 2010, 5:30 GMT

    @Farhan- your probably right, we have beat you guys every game we have played you this year in all forms of the game and mostly quite convincigly. Law of averages show your probably due a win against us. I wouldn't call yourselves an immovable object. Just scraping into the semi's is hardly immovable.

  • on May 12, 2010, 5:41 GMT

    Farhan - do I need to give you the link for the first Aus v Pak game in the event?

    Pakistan scraped into the semi finals, only because NZ and SA sucked as much as PAK has.

  • on May 12, 2010, 5:56 GMT

    @Farhan-Sg, you mean the same Afridi who averages a very mediocre 17.50 in Twenty20? His highest ever t20 score out of 59 innings is 54. Probably one of the most overated cricketers of this generation. Heres a stat for you:

    7 of the Aus line-up have higher averages than Afridi with the bat.

    So don't get your hopes up.

  • asimnk on May 12, 2010, 6:09 GMT

    Pakistani guyz now on charge..its look very hard to escape..Auses need to be ready for them...Spiner Ajmal can distroy the Auses alone

  • on May 12, 2010, 6:34 GMT

    Be afraid aussies, be very very afriad.. mwahahahahahahah

  • jamrith on May 12, 2010, 6:42 GMT

    I agree with Farhan-SG, the Aussie luck is going to run out in the semis which is being played in St.Lucia not Barbados. The Aussies have managed to get out of jail repeatedly against the 3 sub-continental opponents ( forget India, they are the pits) but they will come a cropper against Ajmal, Rehman and Afridi on May 14. Steve Smith is mediocre especially when compared to the one and only Warney.

  • yasir22 on May 12, 2010, 7:03 GMT

    @john.....mere averages dnt give u idea hw much impact afridi has on the game. no doubt he has been misfiring also but he was the one who made the difference in imp games in 2009 WC....and regarding ur stats, see the win / loss avg of both teams in this format, u might have fair idea of where ur team stands....n above all we r the reigning champs. @sean....we deserved to be there bcz we were amongst the two top teams of our group...we did loose but we were competitive n cricket is lyk that...

  • muhmmad7676 on May 12, 2010, 7:12 GMT

    this time also the final would be between pakistan and sri lanka