Steve Smith
Opening bat Steve Smith isn't sure what to expect from the Gabba wicket for the second Test. Image by Jono Searle/AAP PHOTOS
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No terrors in Gabba pitch but Smith still ‘intrigued’

Joel Gould January 25, 2024

Steve Smith is “intrigued” how the Gabba wicket will play in the day-night Test against the West Indies after last year’s strip proved to be a minefield for the batters.

The 2022-23 Test between Australia and South Africa finished inside two days and was rated as “below average” by International Cricket Council match referee Richie Richardson.

The emerald green tinge the surface had on Tuesday was a gum leaf green on Wednesday after being tended to by curator Dave Sandurski and his staff.

Australia opener Smith was one of many batters to find it difficult last summer but wasn’t expecting a recurrence for the second Test starting on Thursday.

“As a batter, last year was pretty tough,” Smith said.

“There was plenty going on. It is a bit different this year with the pink (ball) but … from all reports (the pitch) looks pretty good.”

Smith said he was “intrigued” by the Gabba pitch and how it would play under lights after his own experience in 2016 against Pakistan.

“The only (day-night) game I played here before was against Pakistan where they almost chased down (490) which is kind of unheard of, albeit we did drop a couple of catches and I think I might have been guilty of one there as well,” Smith said.

“Whether this wicket offers a bit more (than in 2016) or they leave a bit more grass to keep the ball harder, I’m not sure.

“That’s one thing Adelaide has in its favour. It leaves a featherbed of grass which keeps the ball together. We’ll wait and see what it has to offer.”

Sandurski reportedly said he would “wind it back” from the way the pitch played last summer but predicted it would still be a traditional Gabba surface providing life with the new ball.

 Kraigg Brathwaite wants the West Indies bowlers to put the ball in the right areas at the Gabba. Image by Matt Turner/AAP PHOTOS 

West Indies captain Kraigg Brathwaite has not played a Test at the Gabba but liked the look of the surface and the potential it had for his bowling attack, which was the visitors’ strength in the 10-wicket loss in the first Test in Adelaide.

“It looks good to be honest and we hope it plays well,” he said.

“The first game is gone. Our bowlers have got to follow that up again. Once we put the ball in the right areas we could do well as a bowling unit.”

Smith said he was looking forward to the challenge of grappling with the Windies pace attack.

“They are a pretty good attack with some good bowlers. Pink ball, when it’s nipping around, might suit them like it does our bowlers,” he said.

“It is always a challenge batting under lights when the ball is new. Against Pakistan (in 2016) … the ball got really soft quickly here. If that is the case the new ball might be difficult and then it might be nice to bat after that. We will see.”