Steve Smith’s unorthodox batting technique used to frustrate coaches and pundits, now it only seems to enrage bowlers.
Smith extended his incredible recent run in Australia’s third Test against India, finishing 178 not out on day two in Ranchi.
The hosts will resume at 1-120 on Saturday, with the game in the balance and injured skipper Virat Kohli set to bat as listed at second drop.
Smith personified leadership as he willed teammates to a first-innings total of 451.
The classy right-hander 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.
India paceman Umesh Yadav all but admitted he ran out of ideas to stop Smith and his fancy footwork.
“At times it’s very difficult to bowl against him. You bowl with a particular plan but sometimes he changes his stance, shuffles from leg stump to off,” Yadav said.
“It sort of affects your plan. You have to keep an eye on him till the last moment and bowl accordingly.”
Kohli is nursing a shoulder injury but will bat and attempt to one-up Smith, with Yadav noting his skipper is “fit to play”.
“The way he’s practising in the nets it seems he’s all set to come back,” Yadav said.
Glenn Maxwell, who credited Smith for helping him maintain composure during his march to a maiden Test ton, was full of praise for his captain.
“He probably lifts the team to another level because he makes the game look so easy … everyone’s in awe of the way he goes about it,” Maxwell said.
“He does it in such a different, unique way and he owns that. He doesn’t care what people say about his technique.
“He knows he has his technique doubters, but when the bloke’s got 19 Test tons and averages over 60 I don’t think you can knock it too much.
“He came into the team as a legspinning allrounder … so what a turnaround he’s had. I know that’s a long way off, but I’d love to be able to follow in his footsteps and change my career.”
Maxwell has no intention to focus sorely on batting and stop bowling offspin, which is yet to be seen in the high-stakes contest unfolding in Ranchi.
But he hopes a knock of 104 in the third Test will be a sign of things to come.
“It’s been a long time between drinks since 2014, my last Test. To get back in the side in the first place was something I really held close to my heart,” the allrounder said.
“I got pretty low … I was in a place where I doubted whether I’d play Test cricket again.
“I didn’t want to waste the opportunity, didn’t want to make it my last Test.”