Gillette T20 INTL Series v Pakistan
Settled Smith revels in role as Aussie 'Mr Fix It'
Extended run at No.3 for the first time in years has the superstar batsman feeling confident he can take next year's World Cup hosts to the next level
Sam Ferris at Manuka Oval, Canberra
5 November 2019, 10:57 PM AEST
He might not have the ability to clear the pickets as regularly as some of his more powerful teammates but Steve Smith proved he can be just as damaging in T20 cricket with a signature innings on Tuesday night in Canberra.
Smith was breathtaking in guiding Australia to a seven-wicket win over Pakistan in the second Gillette T20I at Manuka Oval, scoring an unbeaten 80 from 51 balls with 11 fours and one six.
It was an innings of two halves – his first 51 came from 36 balls with impeccably timed shots through or over the inner circle and along the lightning outfield, before he opened up his arms to finish off the match with a flurry of boundaries that ranged from audacious to outrageous.
It's hard to believe the right-hander averages just 27.47 in T20I cricket but that figure is a reflection of his early career when he played as a leg-spinner and batted in the lower order. Since he's moved to the top of the order, which began when he was named captain in August 2015, Smith averages 48.57 at No.3 and does so not by muscling fours and sixes but by timing deliveries better than a stopwatch.
"If you look at my batting record in T20 internationals, it's not crash hot," Smith said after play.
"I guess you have to bear in mind … (early in my career) I was batting No.8 or 9, coming in and slogging, facing half a dozen balls tops. It's never easy so it's going to affect your record at some point.
"I don't doubt my ability. I know the tempos of the game … and I've played a lot of (T20) cricket now.
"I may not be as strong as some of the other guys but I use placement and timing.
"The white ball usually flies off the bat particularly when it's brand new. If you're timing the ball well you get value for your shots most places."
Smith's ability to problem solve on the run has astonished the likes of coach Justin Langer and Test legend Steve Waugh, and now the 30-year-old has been dubbed 'Mr Fix It' by his teammates.
When Australia lose early wickets – which has been rare this summer – Smith's ability to analyse the situation of the game and take control of the match has taken the T20 side to another level.
It's a role Smith enjoys playing and one he looks set to occupy for a long time yet.
"If you're chasing you weigh up the situation and what you need and what you need to go at, which bowlers you want to target and just work out the maths in your head and that's chasing," he explained.
"Batting first you have to sum up conditions and how the wicket is playing, what you think a good score is and who is in the opposition, all those sorts of things.
"I've played a lot of cricket now, I'm pretty experienced and my role in this team is to fix it if the top don't come off.
"They (the top order) have been exceptional in these games that we've played, Sri Lanka and the first one against Pakistan before we got washed out.
"They're pretty consistent up top so if they don't come off then it's up to me to fix it."
While Smith's wizardry is becoming almost expected, he still leaves his teammates in awe.
Left-arm spinner Ashton Agar watched Smith's innings from the Manuka Oval dugout and was baffled as to how the No.3 was taking down a formidable Pakistan attack.
"Consistently, guys are turning to each other going 'How the hell does he do that? How does he play that shot?'," Agar told cricket.com.au when asked how the team reacts when Smith is batting.
"But when you actually think about it, it becomes clear, he puts so much time and effort into his batting.
"He's totally obsessed with batting and people call him crazy or special or whatever it may be, but he gets the job done every single time and that's when you're a great player."
Gillette T20 INTLs v Pakistan
Pakistan squad: Babar Azam (c), Asif Ali, Fakhar Zaman, Haris Sohail, Iftikhar Ahmed, Imad Wasim, Imam-ul-Haq, Khushdil Shah, Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Hasnain, Mohammad Irfan, Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Musa Khan, Shadab Khan, Usman Qadir.
November 3: First T20I, SCG, No result
November 8: Third T20I, Perth Stadium, 4.30pm (Fox & Kayo)