Steve Smith reveals the secrets behind Black Caps captain Steady The Ship's success

Publish Date
Tuesday, 10 December 2019, 7:49AM
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By: Niall Anderson

Steve Smith is not one to back away from a challenge, so when the so-called "nice guys of cricket" are in town, it is time to bring out the pleasantries.

The star Australian batsman was effusive in his praise of the Black Caps ahead of their three-test series which begins in Perth on Thursday, and the former captain saved his most glowing references for New Zealand's skipper, Kane Williamson.

Smith, whose absurd test average of 63.8 implies a man who knows a thing or two about world-class batting, called Williamson "a terrific batsman and one that we're going to really have to be focused on", and went into detail about what it is that makes the New Zealand skipper so difficult to dismiss.

"Kane plays the ball incredibly late. He's patient. I think we actually hold the bat reasonably similarly - he's got quite a closed grip. I like that in test cricket. It helps playing the ball a little bit later and he plays it later than anyone else in the world."

Williamson's "terrific work ethic" and "good eye" allowed him to have more time to decide on his shots, elaborated Smith.

"He's got plenty of time against quick bowling - hopefully we can keep him quiet."

Smith believes that the most dangerous Black Caps are the ones that form their experienced core. Of the players who visited Australia in their last test tour in 2015, eight remain in the squad of 15 currently training in Perth.

"A lot of the players are still there that were here last time, so they're a few more years experienced. They've got some really good players. Ross Taylor scored some big runs here last time and has played a lot of cricket. And their bowling attack have been together for a while and have formed a good partnership together."

That bowling attack could include Trent Boult, who is hopeful of being available for the pink-ball day-night opener, after suffering a side strain in the first test against England.

"He's a very good bowler. Good skills, a left-arm bowler that can swing the ball back. Anyone that does that at pretty good pace, it's something you don't see a lot of," analysed Smith.

"He's got a great record. I know he's got a bit of a side strain so he's maybe a little bit underdone but there's no doubt if he plays, we'll have to be very watchful."

However, when informed - correctly - that Boult had dismissed him four times in five tests, Smith put a brief pause to the pleasantry parade to set the record straight.

"Has he? I don't know. I think I've scored some runs off him as well. In the series I've played against New Zealand I've generally scored quite a few runs."

He's not wrong – Smith averages 67.9 against the Black Caps, with two centuries and three fifties in those five tests.

It served as a stark reminder - for all the kind words about the class of Williamson, there's only one man in this series who averages over 60 - and he's going to be just as difficult to stop.

This article was first published on nzherald.co.nz and is republished here with permission