Morne Morkel: What England Must Do To Get Steve Smith Out
In my first 2019 Ashes column for 10 daily, I tipped Australia to win the series.
After that first session on day one at Edgbaston, I thought: “Oh my word, I’ve put my foot in it a little bit!”
But it was amazing to wake up the next morning and see that Smithy had made that hundred. Then of course, he went on to make another big hundred in the second innings and Australia went on to win the match quite comfortably.
The class he’s shown is exceptional, and obviously, what a dream Test comeback after his ban from cricket. I think there’s a couple more hundreds coming from him in this series.
So for England now, the big question is: how do they get Smith out?
I’ve played a couple of One-Day games against him and a couple of Tests, and I know how hard he is to bowl to! He covers off stump well and he’s so strong off his legs. But you have to back yourself. Any batter is vulnerable in the first 15 balls or so.
England must attack off stump, and hopefully get some sideward movement to nick him off, or to get an LBW. I’ve got him in the past with a bit of extra bounce, and that could be the key. If Stuart Broad bowls from slightly wider, trying to create an angle with the extra bounce, he could be in with a chance.
I think field placement is also very important.
But to be honest, it's so good to watch Smith bat when you’re not playing against him. He is all class.
As good as Smith is, he is going to need some help from other batters. Khawaja and Head and those guys will have to step up. Like Wadey, once they get that big score, they are all capable and they are fighters. I enjoyed Wade’s century in the second innings at Edgbaston. He scored almost nothing in the first, and you can imagine what was going through his mind. But his comeback was great.
The Australian bowling attack did well in Edgbaston, so should they change it now?
I think they might look at bringing in Starc, who can clean up the tail. With rain predicted for the first day and potentially a four-day Test ahead of us, a strike bowler might be more valuable than one who can contain the runs, as Peter Siddle did so well in the first Test.
Reading Aussie coach Justin Langer, he sounds like he’s willing to pick horses for courses in this series. But of course, it would be tough to drop someone who played so well, especially when he dried up the scoreboard and stopped England going anywhere.
Cummins, Siddle and Lyon were all very good in the first Test. It will be tough to change that line-up, but I can see a case for Starc.
As for England, this is where the pressure cooker starts for big players like Buttler and Stokes. I wrote last time about how they could be mentally fatigued after winning the World Cup, and the weeks of expectations that preceded it. Are they mentally up for this fight now that they’re one down?
This is the sort of Test where, if things crumble, it’s going to be very hard for them to come back. Australia have to try to find their breaking point. I reckon they’re going to come out very hard with the ball if they bowl first.
England have made two changes to their bowling attack – Jofra Archer replaces the injured James Anderson, and left arm spinner Jack Leach is in for Moeen Ali.
What will make Archer dangerous is him bowling at 90 mp/h and nipping the ball back with the Lord’s slope. Archer is a guy who swings the ball and who bowls from close to the stumps, which brings LBW into play.
As for left arm spinner Jack Leach, I don’t think he’ll give Smith too many sleepless nights. There was a joke this week that South African opening batsman and part-time left arm spinner Dean Elgar got Smith out a couple of times.
That may be the case, but I don’t think Leach is the main threat to Smith. I think extra bounce could be the key at the ground where Smith made a double century in the 2015 Ashes.