Steve Smith had the perfect response to critics who declared he shouldn’t be opening for Australia in Tests.
After a lean first three innings as David Warner’s replacement up top with Usman Khawaja, the 34-year-old almost hauled Australia over the line to avoid the monumental eight-run upset by West Indies at the Gabba.
Smith, who has scored 27 of his 32 Test centuries at No.3 or No.4, insists he didn’t overthink his approach to opening.
After scores of 12, 11 not out and six, the star batter belted an unbeaten 91 in Australia’s second innings on Sunday and feels “comfortable” as an opener.
“There was a lot of commentary around I’d failed in two or three innings – I had a not out and two low scores,” Smith said at the MCG on Wednesday.
“Now I’m averaging 60 as an opener.
“It was just another position; I’ve battled against the new ball numerous times, coming in early.
“I’ve enjoyed the first couple of weeks of it … if they see fit to move me back down, I’ll do whatever the team needs.”
Smith, who became the first Australian to carry his bat since Warner in 2011, was the only player to handle the Windies’ newest pace sensation Shamar Joseph.
The 24-year-old tore through Australia with 7-68 to spearhead the tourists to an extraordinary first Test victory down under since 1997.
Adding to the legend, Joseph, in his second Test, bowled in the second innings with a painful toe injury that has forced him to head home to the Caribbean and miss the ILT20 with Warner’s Dubai Capitals.
“I overheard a conversation, I think we were seven down just before lunch and I overheard him speaking to (Windies captain) Kraigg (Brathwaite) … he’s (Joseph) like, ‘I’m bowling to the end, man’,” Smith said.
“He’s a rare talent and I think it’s great for cricket what he was able to do and see the West Indies competing like they did.
“He just kept coming in, and actually probably bowled faster at the end rather than the start.”
Smith also defended his decision to give No.11 Josh Hazlewood two balls to face Joseph in what ended up being the last over of the match.
Hazlewood was Joseph’s final victim, sparking wild and joyful West Indies celebrations as they completed arguably the biggest upset in Test history.
“I’ve thought about it, whether we could do different things,” Smith admitted.
“Maybe I could have taken five balls against Shamar; he was on fire obviously.
“But then I run the risk of not getting a run off the last ball and ‘Hoff’ (Hazlewood) having to take all six from Alzarri (Joseph).”
Smith will captain Australia’s ODI team in Pat Cummins’ absence when they open a three-match series at the MCG on Friday.
It will be Australia’s first 50-over match since famously winning the World Cup by stunning hosts India in last year’s final.