When Steve Smith was asked to fill the shoes of David Warner he wouldn’t have wanted the story to end like it did.
But the middle order maestro’s new role as Test opener went to script, Smith at his best with an unbeaten 91 in a losing cause at the Gabba.
In Smith’s second Test in the new position, he carried his bat in an eight-run loss that was West Indies’ first win in Australia for 27 years.
Playing in his second Test in 2011, Warner carried his bat to score an unbeaten 123 in a seven-run loss to New Zealand that was their first in the country for 26 years.
On both occasions Australia were in the box seat, but in Hobart lost 8-74 and Brisbane 8-94 with the openers watching from the other end.
Smith almost pulled off an audacious solo rescue mission, ramping Alzarri Joseph for six in the penultimate over before No.11 Josh Hazlewood became hero Shamar Joseph’s seventh wicket to signal West Indies’ celebrations.
It was easily Smith’s best score of the summer, surpassing an MCG 50 in what had been his leanest campaign in terms of high-scores in a career spanning 14 years.
Smith had failed in the first innings of both Tests but his teammates had rubbished the narrative that he was under pressure.
“He was fantastic; this whole series he’s looked really sharp,” captain Pat Cummins said.
“Two dismissals were the only two balls he hasn’t looked like he’s middled.
“He’s been class for 15 years and he was brilliant the way he managed the innings through the passages last night and today and almost single-handedly dragged us over the line.”
Cummins also praised Cameron Green, the other man impacted by Warner’s retirement when he was brought back into the team at No.4.
Green (42) was clicking up the gears before becoming Joseph’s first victim and bowled well in Australia’s second innings, a Smith drop denying him a second first-session wicket on Saturday.
It was enough to show why selectors had opted not to elevate a specialist opener instead, but ahead of a tricky two-Test tour of New Zealand Cummins did admit his batters would have some regrets.
“We thought 216 or whatever we needed was quite achievable but we’ve all played enough cricket to know that it can change pretty quickly and any chase is a bit nervy,” he said.
“You’ve got to get yourself in … find a way to get yourself into your innings.”