Steve Smith

Smith the king of Arundel Castle

It was a trip back in time today for Australia A’s first match on their VB tour of the British Isles.

The Julios, led by Steve Smith and coached by Troy Cooley, faced the Nerds, captained by  Brad Haddin and mentored by Darren Lehmann, at Arundel Castle – a place that saw knights, fair maidens and dragons…or so I’m led to believe.

There may have been no dragons today but there was plenty of fire in skipper Smith as he raced to the first century of the tour. His knock of 100 came off only 104 balls – the second fifty from only 33 deliveries.

By his own admission Smith started off scratchily. The flat, hard Arundel wicket promised runs but needed some persuasion. Smith, eager to make an impact as tour vice-captain, set about survival first then attack second. He was not afraid to welcome the occasional fair maiden from the opposition if it meant he could keep his treasured wicket.

His patience and chivalry paid off, surviving the first session assault from Peter Siddle, Chad Sayers and Nathan Lyon. The trio each collected a wicket – Siddle trapping Scott Henry LBW for naught in the first over of the match to swing the advantage to the Nerds.

Usman Khawaja and Moises Henriques put on 46 for the second wicket before Khawaja, like Henry, was trapped in front, this time from Redback Sayers. Khawaja looked the surest of the top six – even surer than Smith – and was clearly upset with his demise. New South Wales all-rounder Henriques was strong on the front foot, striding out to meet offence with defence until a dream off-spinner’s dismissal floated through his gate, castling him in the process to give Lyon is first of the day.

Will Bosisto came in at number five, bringing with him a solid block and a partner to Smith. The pair put on 131 in quick time, punishing anything off target.

Lunch offered up hot or cold options with only one for the taking. Whichever one Smith chose he’ll choose again tomorrow, coming out of the main break like a shining paladin, slashing and driving on his way to 50 from 71 balls. His eye set, the talented all-rounder middled everything on his way to triple figures. Advancing to the spin of Lyon and Turner, Smith played with ease – a real feature of his classy knock. His ton was raised with a towering six, high and handsome over long-on. Being a practice game Smith departed retired out to a rousing ovation from the flock of elderly, signature-hunting gentlemen that awaited his return to the pavilion.

Post-tea the Nerds regained some leverage. Bosisto, surviving a chance behind the wicket, too retired on 73. Less than three overs later six foot five Alex Keith became Lyon’s second victim, bowled from one that skidded through.  James Pattinson would be victim three, dismissed the same way, playing back to a ball that hurried on.  Number four saw the talented Ashton Agar caught at bat-pad, and when Siddle bowled Ryan Harris the Nerds were back on top at 9-292.

Camera-shy James Pierson and Pat Cummins held out to complete the Julios’ allotted 90 overs for the day on 9-317. On what looks like a flat track Smith will hope his fast bowling triumvirate of Pattinson, Siddle and Harris can roar like Lyon and lead their side to a first up victory.