Teammate's Steve Smith warning as Aussie ends 18-month drought
Marnus Labuschagne has put Australia's cricketing rivals on notice after insisting that Steve Smith's drought-breaking century against Sri Lanka is just the tip of the iceberg.
Smith ended an 18-month stretch without a Test century on the opening day of the second Test in Galle, sharing in a 134-run stand with fellow centurion, Labuschagne.
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The former Australia captain made to stumps on day one on 109 not out in what was his first Test hundred since January, 2021.
The milestone was even more special for Smith, whose 28th Test ton puts him one ahead of Indian rival, Virat Kohli.
It also puts Smith ahead of South African great Graham Smith and Australian legend Allan Border, while also moving him ahead of Mark Waugh (8029 runs) into sixth-place on Australia’s leading Test run-scorers of all time.
In a near faultless 212-ball display, Smith put the Aussies firmly in control - with the help of his good mate Labuschagne - after a shaky start with the bat for the visitors.
Smith - who was condemned for his angry reaction towards teammate Usman Khawaja after being run out in the first Test - had showed signs that his century drought was taking its toll on him mentally.
However, Labuschagne warned that the floodgates could have been opened after his teammate's incredible display in Galle.
"The boys said this morning when he rocked up to the ground, he was in the Smudge headspace and he looked locked in," Labuschagne said.
In control from the outset, Smith waited on loose balls from Sri Lanka's bowlers as he punished anything full and hit it to the cover or long-on boundary.
On one of the few occasions a ball beat Smith's bat, the right-hander gave an immediate thumbs-up down the wicket to debutant Prabath Jayasuriya.
But moments like that were few and far between.
The vice-captain produced arguably the best two shots of the day, twice punching Jayasuriya past mid-on for four.
Ten of his 13 boundaries came down the ground, as he got to the pitch of the ball well and controlled the game.
Smith had maintained in recent months that his longest drought since his first Test ton in 2013 had not been playing on his mind.
Steve Smith gets monkey off his back with superb ton
But the joy was evident to see when he brought up his century, driving Kasun Rajitha through the covers and raising his arms aloft after hugging teammate Alex Carey.
"With someone of his calibre, he almost never feels like he's out of form." Labuschagne, who also hit 104, said.
"It's just for him the standard he's set is so high that when it drops a little bit, his expectations are still at that really high level.
"He's a very harsh critic on himself, having set a standard for Australia for the last eight or nine years.
"He's always still hitting the ball well. It's just confidence thing.
"Getting that one today, I think is really going to open up the floodgates and we could have a really big next 10 Tests or so in the next year."
After admitting he had missed the pressure of batting on spinning wickets last month, Smith's runs were desperately needed by Australia.
Brought to the wicket at 2-70, the tourists would have found themselves in trouble if Smith hard fallen early.
But by stumps, they were on top at 5-298.
Smith's century brought him back level with Joe Root on 28, after it had been pointed out to him during the week the former England captain had briefly overtaken him.
He is also now level with Michael Clarke for the fifth most tons in Australia's history, with only Ricky Ponting, Steve Waugh, Matthew Hayden and Don Bradman ahead of him.
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