Australia Tour of England - Men's
'Refreshed' Smith sets sights on Old Trafford
Steve Smith was a prize wicket for Derbyshire bowler Matt Critchley but teammates say the Aussie batsman is in great shape for the fourth Test
1 September 2019, 12:30 PM AEST
When Matt Critchley's phone lit up with congratulatory messages after dismissing Steve Smith in Australia's tour match in Derby, one of the most meaningful came from Stuart MacGill.
Former Australia leg-spinner MacGill claimed 208 Test wickets and was part of the Smith-captained Sydney Sixers that won the inaugural KFC Big Bash League title in 2012.
MacGill now mentors a stack of tweakers, including Critchley.
Critchley, who has played for Randwick-Petersham and Fairfield-Liverpool in the past, intends to return for more Premier Cricket in Sydney this summer.
The leg-spinning allrounder will have a hell of story to share after dismissing Smith for 23 on day two of Australia's tour game in Derby, achieving what England's Test attack has failed to do throughout the Ashes.
But it is more time under MacGill's tutelage that the 23-year-old, who represented England Lions in 2018, is looking forward to the most.
"A few of the boys from Australia have already sent me a message, having a bit of laugh ... Stuey MacGill was onto me about it, he was buzzing," Critchley told AAP.
"I've done quite a bit of work with Stuey. He's unbelievable. I still speak to him now, I'm hoping I will go out there this winter and do some more stuff with him.
"He just said congrats, go out and get some runs but make sure you take it all in. How good a wicket that was and just keep trying to get a few more."
The scorecard shows Smith was dismissed for 23, the second-lowest score in Australia's first innings on a flat, slow batting surface but that bald fact does not reflect a complete picture.
In truth, Smith felt he was gaining little from being fed a diet of unthreatening spin bowling when the likes of Jofra Archer and Stuart Broad await at Manchester.
So he threw his bat, having appeared untroubled for 45 minutes in his return from concussion, and holed out to gift his prized wicket to the struggling division two county team.
But for Critchley, the scorecard will only show the Derbyshire youngster dismissing the world's best batsman.
"I dropped him off my own bowling the over before and he smashed me for four," Critchley said. "I was like 'what have I done?'.
"I didn't have a special plan. Everyone in the world has exhausted every single plan for him, thankfully he just decided to play a few shots and hit one up early.
"Definitely pinching myself, it's pretty special."
Smith has always been one to take it up a notch when the stakes go up; scores of eight and nine in Australia's intra-squad match were followed by marathon net sessions and two centuries in the first Test at Edgbatson.
"In Birmingham, that's the most determined I've ever seen him," Pat Cummins told AAP.
"He wants to be the match-winner every time ... he's relaxed but focused, he can't wait to get out there next week."
Fellow vice-captain Travis Head suggested Smith's enforced rest may prove a "blessing in disguise" while hunting a 2-1 series lead at Old Trafford, where the fourth Test starts on Wednesday.
"The week off has probably done him some favours. He's refreshed after a massive couple of months here, the World Cup straight into his," Head said.
"He'll hit a 1000 balls a day, he'll be ready to go."
"If he got 20 or 220 'Smudger' would still want to go the nets and have a hit" 💪 pic.twitter.com/j4Gb2HOmkl— cricket.com.au (@cricketcomau) August 31, 2019
Cummins knows Smith well, having attended the former skipper's wedding last year and been a source of support throughout his 12 months in exile.
The express paceman watched in awe from the non-striker's end when Smith set the tone for the 2017-18 Ashes with an unbeaten 141 at the Gabba, dragging Australia to victory.
The 26-year-old has seen Smith foil plans and frustrate attacks around the world, doing it in such routine fashion that Steve Waugh recently likened the batting genius to a computer.
"Every batter has been hit and bruised, they've faced millions of short balls," Cummins said.
"That wicket was a bit up and down. I doubt we'll get anything like that again in this series.
"But he is the best batter in the world, you have to be resilient and find ways to get over things pretty quickly (to achieve that status). He's done that a million times before, this will be no different."
Five deliveries of Anuj Dal's medium pace was the closest Smith came to a bouncer barrage in Derby.
It will instead be left to Cummins and other teammates to give the right-hander some searing short stuff in the nets and prepare him for Archer's chin music.
"We normally let a few go in the nets. We'll see in Manchester when we have a bowl there," Cummins grinned.
2019 Qantas Ashes Tour of England
Australia squad: Tim Paine (c), Cameron Bancroft, Pat Cummins, Marcus Harris, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Michael Neser, James Pattinson, Peter Siddle, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Matthew Wade, David Warner.
England squad: Joe Root (c), Jofra Archer, Jonny Bairstow, Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Jos Buttler, Sam Curran, Joe Denly, Jack Leach, Jason Roy, Ben Stokes (vc), Chris Woakes.
First Test: Australia beat England by 251 runs at Edgbaston
Second Test: Match drawn at Lord's
Tour match: Australians v Derbyshire, August 29-31
Fourth Test: September 4-8, Old Trafford
Fifth Test: September 12-16, The Oval