A crucial unbeaten century on the opening day of the third Ashes Test against England at the WACA Ground in Perth was a career highlight for young Australian batsman Steve Smith.
Smith, 24, went into the match under some pressure to perform with the bat, having scored just 60 runs in the first two Tests. He strode to the wicket with the home team again struggling early at 129-4, and produced just the second century, and first on home soil, of his 14-Test career as Australia recovered to end 326-6 at stumps and take first-day honours.
His only previous century was 138 not out at the Oval in August. Given the circumstances of his second ton, with Australia chasing the win that will regain the Ashes after victories in the first two Tests, it was a much more important knock. Smith, who said he enjoyed the pace and bounce of the WACA as a batsman, conceded it was also a crucial innings for his fledgling career. “It is probably right up there for me in my career,” he said. “I was under a little bit of pressure coming into this game, having not scored many runs, and also the position of the game. I felt like I was hitting the ball well in the nets, from ball one today I felt pretty good and I think I summed up the conditions well and it paid off in the end.”
Smith said the English bowlers were guilty of bowling too short and vowed it was a mistake the Australian fast bowlers would not make when the tourists bat. “Our bowlers are going to look forward to bowling out there, the wicket quickened up today,” he said.
“If they hit the right lengths we are going to create plenty of chances. I think they bowled a little bit short in patches, when we come and out bowl we will be a yard fuller than they were.”
Meanwhile, England bowling coach David Saker lamented a missed opportunity, saying: “We had them on the ropes and didn’t finish the job.” The home truths England delivered among themselves after their hammerings in Brisbane and Adelaide appeared to be bearing fruit when they reduced Australia to 143 for five. But three hours later, the only answer was yet more brutal honesty from Saker after Smith’s hundred.
“There’s no doubt we let it slip and probably not for the first time this series. We had them on the ropes and we didn’t finish the job. It’s partly down to the way they played with the bat ... (but) we didn’t deliver what we should have delivered today.
“The disappointing thing is we did chase wickets, and that’s probably one of the first times we’ve done that as a group for as long as I’ve been in charge.” Saker also admitted England may have got their attacking selection wrong. The tourists went with the experience of Stuart Broad, James Anderson, Graeme Swann and Tim Bresnan as a frontline attack, with all-rounder Ben Stokes weighing in with Haddin’s wicket. “Like everything, we make mistakes, like cricketers make mistakes,” Saker told Sky Sports.
“We could have made a mistake (in) this game but I’m sure if our bowlers bowled to their capabilities we wouldn’t have got it wrong. We picked the side we thought would get 20 wickets and I still think we can,” he said.