Gillette T20 INTL Series v Pakistan
Relieved Smith passes crucial test
Superstar batsman back to his most explosive in the field with throwing arm proving highly-effective against Pakistan
Martin Smith in Perth
6 November 2019, 08:44 PM AEST
Steve Smith's remarkable batting unsurprisingly stole the headlines after Australia's victory in Canberra on Tuesday night, but another significant moment earlier in the evening went almost completely undetected in the wake of the batting masterclass.
The run-out of Imad Wasim late in Pakistan's innings was the kind of nondescript dismissal that is commonplace in the death overs of a T20 match, with the batsman risking his wicket in order to pinch a precious extra run.
But Smith's long, flat throw – which pitched perfectly next to the stumps at the bowler's end to allow Mitchell Starc to complete the run-out - was noteworthy for the fact he was able to do it at all.
The 30-year-old's triumphant return to the Australian set-up during the northern winter came after he had battled a right elbow problem for the first half of the year, an injury that required surgery in January and restricted him to positions inside the inner fielding circle during the Indian Premier League, where he remarked he could only throw at 70 per cent of his ability.
His throwing arm was rarely tested consistently to its full capacity during his memorable Ashes campaign, but he had a chance to push his limits under match pressure on Tuesday night when Wasim turned for that risky second run.
And Smith, and his elbow, passed the test.
The brilliant @stevesmith49 takes us through how he thinks on his feet and manages to stay a step or two ahead of his opponent... pic.twitter.com/YZxttZKKRa— cricket.com.au (@cricketcomau) November 6, 2019
"I haven't had to throw full tilt a lot," he said in Perth on Wednesday. "(But) the run-out I got yesterday, I actually gave that a fair bit and it felt pretty good.
"The elbow's going good and there's been no trouble there at all, which is nice."
While Smith's run-scoring feats will remain his major contribution to this Australian side, his return to full fitness in a fielding sense would have warmed the heart of coach Justin Langer.
Langer, a three-time KFC Big Bash winning coach with the Perth Scorchers, recently labelled top-quality fielding a "non-negotiable" for his side ahead of next year's T20 World Cup.
And he believes the ability of his players to throw in the manner Smith did on Tuesday night is a hallmark of a champion T20 team, like the Scorchers were under his watch.
"I've said all along one of my important KPIs is how we throw, because it's indicative of our attitude and our athleticism," Langer told ESPN Cricinfo last month.
"In fielding, you're under the pump because you can't afford to make mistakes."
And despite Smith's run-out in Canberra, and David Warner's brilliant direct hit to dismiss Pakistan skipper Babar Azam, it was a message the coach was keen to reinforce on Wednesday.
"Our fielding's been pretty good, although that's an area we keep working on," Langer said.
"We need to get brilliant at (it)."
Now that he's back to full fitness, Smith says fielding in one of the pivotal boundary positions late in the innings is a role he's looking to make his own for the World Cup.
"Definitely … I enjoy fielding out on the fence and getting in those hot spots," he said.
Australia's final T20 of the summer, and their sixth in 13 days in a whirlwind start to the international season, is in Perth against Pakistan on Friday evening.
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)