Steve Smith's underwhelming series against the West Indies has hit a new low after the veteran Aussie cricket star dropped another catch in slips at the Gabba. Smith's form with the bat has also come under scrutiny, with the 34-year-old's LBW dismissal in the first innings coming under fire from cricket greats Michael Vaughan and Mark Waugh.
Regarded by many as the finest batter of his generation, Smith appears to be in the midst of a crisis of confidence, having moved up the order to open the batting, following the retirement of David Warner. Smith's first three innings as Australia's Test opener have yielded scores of just 12, 11 not out and six and it looks as though his fielding is suffering as well as a result.
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Smith dropped Kraigg Brathwaite late on day two, denying Mitchell Starc a crucial wicket after skipper Pat Cummins declared at 9-289 - still 22 runs behind the Windies' first innings total. With the visitors looking to build on that lead in the first session on day three, Smith was again to blame after squandering the chance to remove Alick Athanaze on 28.
"It just didn't stick"
Steve Smith drops Alick Athanaze on 28.
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The Windies resumed day three on 1-13 and moved onto 63 before the introduction of all-rounder Cameron Green sparked the soft dismissal of Brathwaite (16), who chipped an easy catch to Marnus Labushagne at cover. The Aussies then had the tourists 3-86 when Nathan Lyon trapped the dangerous Kirk McKenzie (41) in front after the Windies batter tried to sweep a nicely flighted delivery on his off stump.
Steve Smith gives Windies another lifeline
Australia should have gone into the first break with a fourth wicket in the bag but Smith inexplicably put down his second catch in the slips. Green was again the man troubling the Windies batters and caught a thick edge from Athanaze that flew towards the Australian slip cordon.
The ball looked to be travelling straight into the waiting hands of Usman Khawaja at first slip but Smith decided to dive across the path of his teammate to try and take one of his trademark classic catches. Unfortunately, Smith's timing was a little off and the ball ended up bouncing out of his right palm and giving Athanaze a lifeline as the Windies made it to dinner at 3-106.
“That’s Khawaja’s catch,” Aussie cricket great Mark Waugh said on Fox Cricket. “Smith is just too tight and too close to Khawaja.” Fellow Aussie cricket legend Adam Gilchrist suggested on the Fox coverage that a lack of confidence could be to blame for Smith's uncharacteristic displays in the field, with fans left in shock by the normally reliable fielder's recent struggles.
Thank god Steve Smith is in his choke era
— K🇬🇾 (@kezurgh) January 27, 2024
Steve Smith’s whole game is being effected now by asking to open when he’s not a opener.
Get him back to 4 ASAP. #AUSvsWI
— All Things Rugby League 🏳️🌈 (@ATRugbyLeague) January 27, 2024
Smith in woeful form. Needs to be told he sucks again so he hits 4 double tons in a row.
— RD 🦈🍉 (@Dawso26) January 27, 2024
Steve Smith what have you done that was an easy catch for Khawaja in slip dropped another one no mann
— RAJASTHAN ROYALS 💗 (@Yaman__2545) January 27, 2024
Regulation catch to Khawaja - Smith chose heroics & drops it.
— The Smiling Catassin (@smilingCatassin) January 27, 2024
Smith is having a shocker
he should have called in sick for the series
— Phillip Smith (@csnphl) January 27, 2024
Steve Smith's struggles continue against Windies
It's so far been a Test match to forget for Smith, who also came under fire for a perceived flaw in his batting technique after getting out cheaply in the first innings. Waugh and former England captain Michael Vaughan both suggested that Smith's shuffling across his crease and imbalance with his head positioning left him vulnerable to getting out LBW.
“You just look at his head position here, it was going over to the off side,” Vaughan said on Fox Cricket after Smith was trapped in front by West Indies seamer Kemar Roach . “He gets LBW because of that movement.” Waugh agreed, saying: “That premeditated movement before the ball is bowled is way too far to the off side. All his weight is falling that side.
“Your footwork’s all over the shop because your weight is going too far to the off side. He needs to have a look at that, because he’s getting into a position where he can’t adjust to the line of the ball.
“He’s losing all relevance to where his stumps are. He’s playing at balls outside off stump, and he’s nicked a few this summer that he doesn’t have to play at, that sixth stump line. He’s got to get a better idea of where his stumps are.”
The 34-year-old is on the verge of his least prolific home summer of Test cricket since 2010/11 when he only played three matches. Smith needs to surpass 54 runs in his second innings against the Windies to avoid that unwanted 13-year first and despite the criticism around his form and technique, is adamant he is still the right man to open for Australia.
“I just need to be a little bit more disciplined,” Smith told reporters. “That is one of the big parts of how I have played throughout my career. I have been pretty disciplined outside off stump. When I am disciplined and leaving well there, then I am batting well.”
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