Steve Smith’s quest to conquer a purported mission impossible might yet fail, but he has clearly taken his game to another level in Test cricket’s ultimate proving ground.
Smith continued his masterclass on Friday in Australia’s third Test against India, finishing 178 not out when he ran out of partners.
It was Smith’s third ton on tour and second in the four-Test series. The classy right-hander has set many run-scoring records as skipper, but those in Ranchi are arguably his most impressive.
No Australian captain has thrived so consistently in India, widely considered the hardest place for Australians to bat because conditions are the antithesis of what they’re used to at home.
Only two other visiting Test captains have scored two or more centuries in a series in India: Clive Lloyd and Alastair Cook.
Smith’s score was the third highest by an Australian in India, falling short of Matthew Hayden’s 203 in 2001 and Dean Jones’ 210 in the 1986 tied Test.
Before Smith’s knock, no Australian captain had come close to such dizzying heights. The highest Test score by an Australian skipper had been Michael Clarke’s 130 in Chennai during the ill-fated 2013 tour.
The numbers tell only part of the tale of Smith’s sheer determination to make the most of Thursday’s fall of the coin.
The 27-year-old batted with every one of his teammates, save for vice-captain David Warner. He spent 512 minutes at the crease; Australia’s innings lasted 558 minutes.
Smith was never rattled at any point of the marathon dig. No India bowler looked to have the better of him.
It came at a time of immense pressure. The series was level at 1-1, while Australia had slipped to 4-140 on a pitch where they simply had to pass 400.
Smith was also personally under the pump, having been booed off the ground in Bangalore after his illegal and oft-replayed glance to the stands.
“He’s swept aside the rubbish from the week before and he’s back in business,” Hayden said on Star Sports.
From the moment Australia crashed to defeat in the second Test and a sheepish Smith hit the headlines, the skipper was determined to move on from the saga.
“I can’t control the past. It’s gone, so you have to let that go as quickly as you can,” Smith told Star Sports.
“I came out and said I made a mistake at the end of the last game and moved on from it.
“It was about focusing on this Test match here in Ranchi.”