Philippe dominates on Final stage to earn Smith praise
The Sydney Sixers opener continues to impress as teammate Steve Smith suggests he could play a middle order role for the national T20 team
Louis Cameron at the SCG
9 February 2020, 09:49 AM AEST
Josh Philippe torched the Melbourne Stars in the KFC BBL final from the top of the order, but Steve Smith believes his look-a-like has the potential to be Australia's baby-faced assassin at the death.
Smith laughs that the only likeness he sees between him and the 22-year-old who idolises him is their "tiny heads", but the comparisons between the pair will only grow after Philippe cracked a nerveless 29-ball 52 to lead the Sydney Sixers to their second title in a 12-over game on Saturday.
Philippe finished as the tournament's third most prolific batter with 487 runs at 37, following on from his outstanding 304-run debut campaign last season during which he was promoted to open following a series of eye-catching cameos from No.6.
Smith believes it was those innings from the lower-order that highlighted the youngster's true potential.
"I was actually more impressed with the way he played last year down the order," Smith told cricket.com.au.
"There's not too many players that can come in and go from ball one and get the job done at five and six. In this tournament Jono Wells has done it really well.
"But last year, Josh was doing it before he went up the top and that shows the sign of a good player."
Rain-reduced matches tend to favour the team batting second given the festering uncertainty over what constitutes a good total.
Yet Philippe, who admitted he was not expecting to play given the record rainfall Sydney endured in the days and hours leading into the decider, remained perfectly composed.
The right-hander put on 48 runs in just 28 balls with Jordan Silk for the fifth-wicket in a match-winning fifth-wicket partnership that pushed the game out of the Stars' reach.
"I was actually incredibly calm last night and all day today," he said. "When we started I still remained calm which surprised me a bit.
"When I played my first Big Bash game, I was terrified. So I definitely think after getting a few games under your belt you get used to a lot of the external pressure and noise that you don’t really get playing state cricket.
"When there’s 20 or 30,000 people compared to a hundred it’s a different feel. It’s definitely something I’ve worked on and comes with playing a lot of games."
Smith lauded Philippe for his composure under the intense heat of a BBL decider.
"He's been amazing this tournament and under pressure in a final as a young kid to play the way he did … I thought it was a terrific effort," said Smith.
"He probably hasn't played in a rain-reduced game down to 12 (overs) as well. To be able to bat all the way through - he just played some really good cricket shots, played to his strengths again and hit the middle of the bat on a consistent basis.
"He's a terrific kid, wants to learn, wants to get better and he seems to be doing that. He's got a really bright future."
Asked if he could play international cricket, Smith said: "I don't see why not. He's got a game that is going to get better and better."
Australia have cycled through a number of different players in the 'finishing' spots in T20 cricket ahead of this year's World Cup with Ashton Turner, Ben McDermott, Marcus Stoinis, Glenn Maxwell and Alex Carey all tried.
Wells and Silk have been standouts in the role in the BBL in recent times but, like Philippe, are uncapped at international level.
Smith, who along with Maxwell and Carey appear the main locks for Australia's T20 middle order heading to the showpiece ICC event at home, suggested only a few players in the world consistently thrive in the lower-order.
"Everyone wants to bat at the top while you've only got two fielders out," he said. "Guys that can do it down the end and can do it on a reasonably consistent basis – there's only a few around the world.
"You're talking the (MS) Dhonis, Jos Buttler, Hardik Pandya does it really well, Andre Russell in the IPL.
"There's guys like that do it consistently and those sort of players are the most sought after in this day and age."