Steve Smith has put the England Test cricket side on notice, with an ominous warning about their much lauded 'Bazball' revolution ahead of the Ashes series. Smith continued his batting love affair in England with a seventh century there and a 31st overall in his Test career to help the Aussies take a stranglehold in the World Test Championship (WTC) final against India.
Smith (121) and Travis Head (163) propelled Australia to 469 in their first innings, before the Aussie bowlers - led by the superb Scott Boland - ripped through India's top order to leave them 5-151 at stumps on day two. Boland, Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Cameron Green and Nathan Lyon all took a wicket each on the second day to put Australia in the box seat at The Oval.
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It was a dominant display of bowling from Australia's pace ensemble in particular, with the Aussies even having the luxury of resting mainstay Test quick Josh Hazlewood, due to ongoing side soreness. That Hazlewood is yet another world class fast bowling option at the disposal of skipper Cummins' team, is a frightening prospect for England, ahead of the first Ashes Test starting at Edgbaston on June 16.
In an action-packed afternoon at The Oval, India batsman Ajinkya Rahane was hit on both the helmet and the hand, requiring medical treatment after the latter blow. Virat Kohli was also dismissed to a ball that reared up at him from Mitchell Starc, striking him on the glove on the way to Smith at second slip.
Almost as notable was the fact Boland sent down four maidens in his 11 overs, bowling with discipline that would be hard for England to get away if he is picked. Smith told reporters at the end of the day's play that he doubts England will be able to enjoy the same success they've had against other bowling attacks, compared to this Australia lineup.
Steve Smith shuts down England 'Bazball' talk
England's 'Bazball' approach is centred around aggressive, fast-scoring cricket to give their bowlers the best chance of taking the 20 wickets necessary to win a Test match. Smith has always been adamant that it won't work against Australia's attack and he said the performance against India on day two at The Oval was just further evidence of that notion.
"I mean, I think it'd be difficult on this kind of wicket that's up and down and seaming around – it's not easy to defend let alone come out and swing," Smith told reporters. "I said it initially when Bazball started that I'm intrigued to see how it goes against our bowlers. I've said that all along.
While Smith credited England on the success they've had with the exciting approach, he warned Ben Stokes' men that Australia's attack represents a different beast entirely. "They've obviously done well against some other attacks, but they haven't come up against us yet. So, we'll see."
Australia have been the most economical bowling side in the world in recent years, making England's Bazball approach that much more difficult. The Aussies have also vowed to fight fire with fire and in fellow first innings centurion Head (163 runs off 173 balls), they have the type of player who can take a match away from opposition attacks very quickly.
On day two at The Oval, Australia's bowlers made a clear point to attack the stumps against India after their rivals were accused of getting their lengths wrong on day one. "The length at off stump is important," Smith said. "We've obviously seen a bit of variable bounce and some seam movement. So if we're challenging the top of the stumps as much as possible, that's the quickest way home."
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