Sublime Smith lifts teammates to next level
THEbonus of Steve Smith's Test return goes beyond just his masses of runs for Australia.
Vice-captain Travis Head declared his new Test teammate had given a enhanced sense of confidence to every other batsmen because Smith "sucks the momentum" out of the opposition when he comes out to the crease.
England was lost for answers to Smith's 286 runs at Edgbaston, and their distraction in the search for answers helped Head, and Matthew Wade too, cash in.
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Head said there was also a relaxed vibe when batting with Smith, who doesn't say much, but makes what he says count.
The pair put on 194 runs in two partnerships across the opening test, and Head said Smith's mental strength stood out.
"Not a lot was said between us. It was all short, sharp and shiny. He goes about it his way and stays extremely strong mentally," Head said.
"He's obviously in great form so it's nice to be at the other end and he obviously takes a bit of pressure off.
"They are trying to think of some plans to him so I was able to go a little bit under the radar.
"In a partnership, he's fantastic to bat with. He sucks the momentum out of the opposition and the way he batted in this game, it was nice to be at the other end with him."
"You know he's not going anywhere … so hopefully a little bit more batting to do in the next four Tests with him."
The Edgbaston win was Head's first Test with Smith, having begun his career in the baggy green surrounded by batsmen who are no longer in the team.
But playing with that Smith-infused confidence in his Ashes debut, the South Australian made 34 and 51 as solid returns in a winning team.
He had a crucial 64-run partnership with Smith in the first innings, after the Australians collapsed to 3-35, then the pair put on 130 second innings runs as Head racked a sixth half century in his ninth Test.
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"I'm happy with the way I started, and obviously disappointed not to go on with it in the first and second innings," Head said.
"It was fantastic to build that partnership in the first innings, then not to go on with it was tough.
"But the way I've been able to start in both innings, and adapt to the conditions, I've been fortunate enough to have a few hits in English conditions in the A tour.
"I feel like I'm in good touch with the tour match this week and then into the second Test, so for me it's about continuing to do the basics really well and capitalizing when I get the opportunity."
Most Test runs for Aust since last #Ashes:— Adam Burnett (@AdamBurnett09) August 4, 2019
- Steve Smith 1101* (15 inns)
- Usman Khawaja 1090 (31)
- Shaun Marsh 789 (26)
- Travis Head 749 (16)
- Tim Paine 702 (28)
Head wasn't among those given a break after the Birmingham match, and was adamant that despite the first up win, the tour match at Worcester, where he played county cricket in 2018, was important to keep the momentum going.
"We have to make sure we are up and we continue to play well and get something out of the tour match," he said.
"We want to keep the standard then we have four more days in to the next Test. There will be a bit of time for relaxation, a bit of time to reflect, then we have to make sure we step over the line and keep making improvements."