Steve Smith
New Test opener Steve Smith points out he's already proven adept when facing the new ball. Image by Dan Himbrechts/AAP PHOTOS
  • cricket

Smith points to new-ball success to back opener move

Scott Bailey January 12, 2024

Steve Smith has pointed to the 2019 Ashes as proof he can succeed against the new ball as he explained why he wanted his move to the top of Australia’s Test batting order.

Smith was out first ball he faced in his BBL return for the Sydney Sixers on Friday night against the Sydney Thunder, but already all eyes are on the first Test against West Indies in Adelaide starting on Wednesday.

The Test veteran said his desire to replace David Warner as opener was borne out of wanting to give Cameron Green a chance at No.4, as well as his own enjoyment of getting to the crease early.

Steve Smith
 Steve Smith was out to the first ball he faced in his BBL return for the Sydney Sixers on Friday. Image by Steve Markham/AAP PHOTOS 

Several have questioned the move, with the likes of Ricky Ponting and Justin Langer among those suggesting before Warner’s recent Test retirement that Australia go with a specialist to replace him.

Usman Khawaja and captain Pat Cummins also warned against the move, given Smith’s prowess at No.4, before the call was made.

But Smith said he was ready to succeed as an opener, averaging 106.2 when coming to the crease in the first two overs of a Test innings.

Several of those innings include when he was batting at No.3 in the 2019 Ashes in England, where he hit 774 runs at an average 110.54.

“I am (excited). I like facing the newer ball,” Smith told Fox Sports ahead of his BBL match.

“I think you look back to 2019 Ashes, I was in pretty early there most of the time where I was facing the new ball.

“I batted No.3 for a number of years as well and was in early and did pretty well against the new ball.

“So it’s nothing new or foreign to me. I enjoy getting in there and getting amongst it and I’m looking forward to that challenge.”

Smith’s comments came shortly after Aaron Finch backed him to succeed as an opener, believing it could reinvigorate the 34-year-old’s career.

Finch will play his final professional cricket game on Saturday night, confirming the Melbourne Renegades’ BBL derby clash with the Stars will be his last match of the season.

A World Cup winner in both white-ball formats, Finch has experience in what Smith is about to go through with his move up the order.

Finch had some success in his first series in the UAE, but was dropped after two Tests in Australia with Andrew McDonald still picking him in the middle order for Victoria.

But Finch does not expect many concerns for the world’s former No.1-ranked batsman.

“When you’ve been one of the greatest players of all time, I think he’ll find it easier than most,” Finch said.

Aaron Finch
 Aaron Finch says Steve Smith’s career can be reinvigorated by his move to Test opener. Image by Morgan Hancock/AAP PHOTOS 

“Initially when it was floated, I didn’t think it was the right idea. But the more I think about it, the more it makes a lot of sense.

“They’re committed to playing the best six batters, they see Cameron Green in that. So to find a spot in that lineup, that made the most sense in the end.”

“I think it will reinvigorate and rejuvenate him,” Finch added.

“Once you get on the merry-go-round of international cricket for 15 years it can become a bit monotonous I guess.

“I think that this will be the recharge he needs, so going into the future we can we can see a lot more of Steve Smith in Test cricket.”