Steve Smith is in a form trough ahead of Ashes

Ronan O'Connell Columnist

By Ronan O'Connell, Ronan O'Connell is a Roar Expert

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    The opening round of the Sheffield Shield only added to the intrigue surrounding Australia’s Ashes line-up.

    Test incumbent Glenn Maxwell failed twice against Queensland while his key rival for the number six spot, Hilton Cartwright, had a good game against Tasmania, scoring 61 and 38.

    Usman Khawaja ended any conjecture about his Ashes spot with a sensational double of 40 and 122 against the very-strong Victorian attack on a tricky pitch at the Gabba.

    Test opener David Warner also looked in fine nick as he made 83 and 32 for NSW in a low-scoring match against South Australia.

    Jackson Bird and Chadd Sayers kept themselves in the minds of the Test selectors with fine bowling performances, each taking six wickets. Here are some of the other key talking points from the Shield.

    Steve Smith is in a form trough
    Since the start of the Test tour of Bangladesh, the Australian captain has made 328 runs at an average of 27 from a dozen innings across 50-over and first-class cricket.

    Smith failed twice for NSW this week against South Australia, out LBW to Chadd Sayers for three in the first innings and caught behind off Daniel Worrall for nine in the second dig.

    His form has been so extraordinary over the past four years that many pundits and fans have wondered just when he would finally encounter a rough patch. Is this it? Is Smith finally out of form?

    His return of 119 runs at 30 in Bangladesh was the first time in four years Smith had averaged less than 40 in a Test series. During that period, Australia’s batting line-up has relied heavily on the 28-year-old’s phenomenal consistency.

    Smith’s double failure in the Shield this week was particularly notable given the way he has destroyed State attacks in recent years, having churned out 717 runs at 90 in his previous five Shield matches.

    Australian captain Steve Smith leaves the field

    (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)

    Nevill, Wade and Carey struggled
    It was an awful round for the three contenders for Australia’s Test keeping berth. Incumbent Matt Wade, former Test gloveman Peter Nevill and rising star Alex Carey all failed to press their cases for selection.

    Nevill grafted his way to 20 off 67 balls against SA in his only knock for the round, but had a poor match behind the stumps, missing two catches.

    The second of those chances was an absolute dolly, with Nevill turfing a regulation edge from the blade of Callum Ferguson off the bowling of Pat Cummins. Earlier Nevill had failed to take a nick from the bat of Jake Weatherald, with the ball fortunately lobbing off his left glove to Steve Smith at first slip.

    Wade had an even worse match for Tasmania against WA, with scores of one and six. As the dark horse for the Test keeping spot, Carey needed to have an eye-catching start to the Shield season but instead he made only 12 and four.

    Although, to be fair, Carey’s first innings dismissal was the result of being forced to slog because SA were nine down, with bunny Chadd Sayers at the other end.

    The Australian selectors will have gleaned very little from the performances of these three players, except perhaps confirmation that Wade is truly out of touch.

    Chris Tremain is ready for Test cricket
    Over the past three Sheffield Shield seasons, no one has had a better bowling average than Tremain’s 19.6 (minimum 50 wickets). Tremain has grabbed 82 wickets from 20 matches during that period at a remarkable strike rate of 41.

    The Victorian paceman has an enviable range of attributes – he’s tall (193cm), he’s accurate, he swings the ball late and consistently, and he’s quick, having been clocked at up to 148kmh in an ODI for Australia.

    Tremain rarely is mentioned as a Test prospect because of the amazing depth of Australia’s pace stocks. After the so-called Big Four – Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins and James Pattinson – there’s also the likes of Jackson Bird, Chadd Sayers, Jason Behrendorff, Nathan Coulter-Nile and Peter Siddle.

    Quite incredibly, Tremain might be behind all of those guys in the Test pecking order, putting him way back in 10th place. Yet I think the 26-year-old is well and truly ready for Test cricket and would acquit himself well should get an opportunity at the highest level.

    Ronan O
    Ronan O'Connell

    Ronan O'Connell has been a journalist for well over 13 years, including nine at daily newspapers in WA. He now traverses the world as a travel photojournalist, contributing words and photography to more than 30 magazines and newspapers including CNN, BBC, The Toronto Star, The Guardian, The South China Morning Post, The Irish Examiner and The Australian Financial Review. Check out his work and follow him on Twitter @ronanoco

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    The Crowd Says (158)

    • October 30th 2017 @ 7:19am
      qwetzen said | October 30th 2017 @ 7:19am | ! Report

      “Steve Smith is in a form trough
      Since the start of the Test tour of Bangladesh, the Australian captain has made 328 runs at an average of 27 from a dozen innings across 50-over and first-class cricket”

      If you’re going to conflate all formats to reach this conclusion then you should also be looking at Pat C. As I’ve done in Scott Prydes’ piece. But as that post is “awaiting moderation” then it’ll probably get deleted in the mysterious and unexplained ways of The Roar. Anyway here’s Pats’ Most Recent gallops;

      Bat & Bowl Team Opposition Ground Match Date Scorecard
      2/22, 9, 0/71 NSW v South Aust Adelaide 27 Oct 2017 FC
      8, 0/24 NSW v Victoria Sydney 15 Oct 2017 LA
      2*, 0/29 Australia v India Nagpur 1 Oct 2017 ODI # 3919
      1/59 Australia v India Bengaluru 28 Sep 2017 ODI # 3917
      2/54 Australia v India Indore 24 Sep 2017 ODI # 3914
      1/34, 0 Australia v India Kolkata 21 Sep 2017 ODI # 3912
      0/44, 9 Australia v India Chennai 17 Sep 2017 ODI # 3910
      0/15 Australians v Ind Pres XI Chennai 12 Sep 2017 Other OD
      0/46, 4, 2/27 Australia v Bangladesh Chittagong 4 Sep 2017 Test # 2273

      • October 30th 2017 @ 8:48am
        Basil said | October 30th 2017 @ 8:48am | ! Report

        Valid point. Cummins only took 2 wickets on a pitch that Starc, Sayers, and Copeland all cleaned up on.
        Having said that, we have still got 2 Shield matches to go and I really can’t see him not being selected after his efforts in the subcontinent this year.

      • October 30th 2017 @ 10:48am
        matth said | October 30th 2017 @ 10:48am | ! Report

        It’s a fair call. Lucky he is the third seamer only. In that spot I see his accuracy and pressure after Hazlewood and Starc to be a plus. But it’s something to keep an eye on for sure.

        • October 30th 2017 @ 12:47pm
          Ross said | October 30th 2017 @ 12:47pm | ! Report

          Smith hasn’t got as many runs as he would like but he is world class and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a 100 next shield game. On tremain I saw him on the weekend at the Gabba and he does look very impressive, he can bat a bit too but it was his line and length that impressed me

          • October 30th 2017 @ 2:12pm
            matth said | October 30th 2017 @ 2:12pm | ! Report

            Sends it down from a great height too at good pace. Very handy.

            • October 30th 2017 @ 5:17pm
              Stephen said | October 30th 2017 @ 5:17pm | ! Report

              Tremain would be a ideal backup to our current pace bowlers

    • October 30th 2017 @ 8:17am
      Whiteline said | October 30th 2017 @ 8:17am | ! Report

      Good comment Q.
      Smith will be fine, can’t see him messing up in Australia for too long. Flat pitches, fast outfields, short boundaries.

    • October 30th 2017 @ 8:43am
      Basil said | October 30th 2017 @ 8:43am | ! Report

      Crazy Idea but hear me out …..
      If all 3 keepers are struggling with the bat, why don’t we just pick the best gloveman?

      • October 30th 2017 @ 8:50am
        qwetzen said | October 30th 2017 @ 8:50am | ! Report

        So it’s Alyssa Healy then.

        • October 30th 2017 @ 9:24am
          Basil said | October 30th 2017 @ 9:24am | ! Report

          gloveMAN

          • October 30th 2017 @ 9:30am
            spruce moose said | October 30th 2017 @ 9:30am | ! Report

            Nothing in the rules that says women can’t play in the men’s team Basil.

            • October 30th 2017 @ 9:46am
              Basil said | October 30th 2017 @ 9:46am | ! Report

              I’m not going to enter this debate.

            • Roar Guru

              October 30th 2017 @ 10:05am
              Chris Kettlewell said | October 30th 2017 @ 10:05am | ! Report

              She’s never had to take a ball travelling at 140km/h+

              • Roar Guru

                October 30th 2017 @ 10:12am
                Anindya Dutta said | October 30th 2017 @ 10:12am | ! Report

                Actually a slightly larger ball travelling at 140k+. And she is at best a very average wicketkeeper, even for humorous comparisons!

              • October 30th 2017 @ 10:48am
                matth said | October 30th 2017 @ 10:48am | ! Report

                At this point I’d even take Ian Healy wandering down from the commentary box.

              • October 30th 2017 @ 11:04am
                qwetzen said | October 30th 2017 @ 11:04am | ! Report

                Actually she frequently takes a bowler who’s regularly above 140 kmph…

              • October 30th 2017 @ 11:13am
                matth said | October 30th 2017 @ 11:13am | ! Report

                Settle down Q.

              • October 30th 2017 @ 12:27pm
                spruce moose said | October 30th 2017 @ 12:27pm | ! Report

                I’d be prepared to place a good wager on her either have having practice kept to her partner’s bowling, or even cranked up the bowling machine for some fun.

                I wouldn’t pick her, but then we also don’t need the unnecessary rank sexism on the website either.

              • October 30th 2017 @ 1:51pm
                Basil said | October 30th 2017 @ 1:51pm | ! Report

                Why bring sexism into this?

              • October 30th 2017 @ 2:20pm
                JoM said | October 30th 2017 @ 2:20pm | ! Report

                Spruce is right. She has kept to her hubby’s bowling plenty of times and batted against it indoors as well and he wasn’t holding back.

    • Roar Guru

      October 30th 2017 @ 8:44am
      Ryan H said | October 30th 2017 @ 8:44am | ! Report

      The positive I took from it is that if anything it might mean Smith starts to notice Chadd Sayers a little more! Or perhaps he’ll need another 60+ wicket season for that to happen.

      Smith’s form concerning, but I suppose Warner and D.Hughes aside, all their batsmen struggled. Really only two from the likely top six for the Gabba in 3 weeks time actually looked in good touch.

      • Columnist

        October 30th 2017 @ 8:53am
        Ronan O'Connell said | October 30th 2017 @ 8:53am | ! Report

        Ryan I think Smith will definitely notice Sayers after the send off that Chadd gave him in this match!

        • October 30th 2017 @ 10:49am
          George said | October 30th 2017 @ 10:49am | ! Report

          Good. Hopefully he thinks about propping up Maddinson too.

        • Roar Guru

          October 30th 2017 @ 12:27pm
          Rellum said | October 30th 2017 @ 12:27pm | ! Report

          I did like that send off, I don’t think Smith did. I wonder if Smith the sort of guy to admire that aggression or hold it against him.

          • Roar Guru

            October 30th 2017 @ 12:48pm
            The Bush said | October 30th 2017 @ 12:48pm | ! Report

            Wade behaves that way all the time and Smith apparently wants him selected just for it…

            • Roar Guru

              October 30th 2017 @ 1:05pm
              Rellum said | October 30th 2017 @ 1:05pm | ! Report

              It’s one thing to have your mate be aggressive, another for someone who might sit outside the group doing it. I am not privy to the relationship dynamics at play but it would be interesting to see how much that plays into it.

              Fir Smith he can be thankful that Hughes sneaked in a 50, given the highly politicised nature of his selection. That 50 was just enough kept the critics like me a little silent. I still think the selection was wrong but others will think it now justified.

              • October 30th 2017 @ 2:14pm
                matth said | October 30th 2017 @ 2:14pm | ! Report

                I still think it was wrong, but I think the man to stand aside should have been Maddinson. He is not a long form opener and it showed. Either pick Cowan and drop Maddinson, or play Hughes at opener where he has some experiecne and leave Maddinson at six. Obviously they wanted to see Hughes at six, so he might be a ‘Captain’s call’, but if that was the case, Cowan still opens.

              • October 30th 2017 @ 2:33pm
                George said | October 30th 2017 @ 2:33pm | ! Report

                History has shown that S Marsh is always in the selectors’ calculations. Agree with RK – they’ll pick him again if they want to replace Renshaw.

              • October 30th 2017 @ 2:44pm
                Don Freo said | October 30th 2017 @ 2:44pm | ! Report

                Good to see you finally acknowledging current form. You are starting to get it.

              • October 30th 2017 @ 5:18pm
                Stephen said | October 30th 2017 @ 5:18pm | ! Report

                There is no way we are dropping renshaw, marsh will come in at 6 but i think cartwright will beat him

              • October 30th 2017 @ 5:45pm
                George said | October 30th 2017 @ 5:45pm | ! Report

                S Marsh has had far too many chances already. I’d pick several openers before him… even considering this immense 60-odd he made against a very limited Tasmanian side.

        • October 30th 2017 @ 5:01pm
          twodogs said | October 30th 2017 @ 5:01pm | ! Report

          That’s ‘chief selector’ Smith…..

      • Roar Guru

        October 30th 2017 @ 10:31am
        Edward L'Orange said | October 30th 2017 @ 10:31am | ! Report

        With Sayers, Bird and Tremain as back up to the big four, I can’t remember us having deeper bowling. I’ve been saying for a while Tremain is ready. He’s been the most consistent Shield bowler of the last two years.

        Warner is in his yearly form spike, but he does tend to fall away as the summer progresses. It’ll be a worry for us if Smith can’t get some runs and the Ashes are still on the line near the end of the tour.

        Handscomb, though he didn’t get many runs, had a very patient 100 ball second innings, which is a good sign.

        Disappointed in Maxwell, he needs runs desperately.

        • October 30th 2017 @ 10:50am
          matth said | October 30th 2017 @ 10:50am | ! Report

          Don;t forget NCN as well. He had a mighty match in the West.

          • Roar Guru

            October 30th 2017 @ 12:10pm
            Chris Kettlewell said | October 30th 2017 @ 12:10pm | ! Report

            They’ve got some nice ones in the west, but a few are still a little green to likely be called on as yet.

    • October 30th 2017 @ 8:53am
      Don Freo said | October 30th 2017 @ 8:53am | ! Report

      Jackson Bird’s performance was certainly not the best bowling to come out of the game at the WACA. He really struggled with length against WA’s #8 and #9 batsmen.

      The best control of line, length and movement in that game came from Simon Mackin and as for penetration, Matt Kelly on debut, NCN and Jhye Richardson were all more potent.

      Bird was fine but possibly not deserving of the sole mention of a bowler from that game.

      • October 30th 2017 @ 8:57am
        Paul Potter said | October 30th 2017 @ 8:57am | ! Report

        Would some leeway be in order considering Tasmania’s bowlers had insufficient runs to work with? Their batsmen didn’t score enough runs in the first innings and it just got embarrassing in the fourth innings.

        • October 30th 2017 @ 9:05am
          Don Freo said | October 30th 2017 @ 9:05am | ! Report

          They had enough runs in the first dig. Bird’s bowling came before that 4th innings effort.

      • Columnist

        October 30th 2017 @ 9:03am
        Ronan O'Connell said | October 30th 2017 @ 9:03am | ! Report

        Don you’re right that Bird didn’t bowl well to the tail in the second dig but geez he was good against WA’s top six in both innings, he constantly asked questions.

        The entire WA attack was impressive, particularly Kelly and Richardson given their inexperience. Amazing to think that WA also have Behrendorff, Paris, Agar, Moody and Tye – their bowling depth is insane.

        • October 30th 2017 @ 9:08am
          Don Freo said | October 30th 2017 @ 9:08am | ! Report

          And Mitch Marsh to resume bowling.

          Maybe there should be some mid season transfers to other states allowed.

          A couple of WA wicketkeepers might be on the move too.

          • Columnist

            October 30th 2017 @ 9:20am
            Ronan O'Connell said | October 30th 2017 @ 9:20am | ! Report

            Tasmania or Queensland would gladly accept Klinger, Tye or Moody on a transfer.

            • Roar Guru

              October 30th 2017 @ 12:53pm
              Rellum said | October 30th 2017 @ 12:53pm | ! Report

              Yeah, not sure about Moody, would probably take Klinger if was showing his standard form.

          • October 30th 2017 @ 10:56am
            George said | October 30th 2017 @ 10:56am | ! Report

            Don’t forget Green!

            They can play all the bowlers to cover up a dearth of consistent run-scorers.

        • October 30th 2017 @ 9:09am
          Rob JM said | October 30th 2017 @ 9:09am | ! Report

          How good has Richardsons first two shield game been! Currently averaging 37 with the bat and 22 with the ball!

          • October 30th 2017 @ 10:18am
            Joe Bell said | October 30th 2017 @ 10:18am | ! Report

            Yeah wicked talent

            • October 30th 2017 @ 12:57pm
              Don Freo said | October 30th 2017 @ 12:57pm | ! Report

              Did you see him throw the wicket down at cover? He would be right up there with Maxwell, NCN and Alex Ross as the best fieldsman in Oz.

              Cartwright not far behind. Who are the gun cover/point fieldsmen from other states?

              • October 30th 2017 @ 1:11pm
                BurgyGreen said | October 30th 2017 @ 1:11pm | ! Report

                Silk

              • October 30th 2017 @ 1:53pm
                Don Freo said | October 30th 2017 @ 1:53pm | ! Report

                Yep. He’s great.

                I was thinking about him the other day. Only 2 years ago, so many saw him as the next Test opener but he failed and failed and failed. Still now, his obvious promise has him getting another go…and he failed. So he now has a diminished lot of stats.

                Here’s the thing. Let’s say he finally regains his mojo and the next 9 Shield games he nails it with 1000 runs for the season. He’d be back in the Test selection frame with, say, a season average in the 70s or 80s. But, we will have stats freaks saying his average is low 30s or high 20s over his career. Does that negate the 1000 runs over 9 current games?

                I say no. Current form counts.

              • Roar Guru

                October 30th 2017 @ 2:07pm
                Rellum said | October 30th 2017 @ 2:07pm | ! Report

                You really need to back up over seasons. Not over their whole career per say, but you need to put together at least back to back big years to force your way into calculations, especially if you are not rated of international potential by the national setup.

              • October 31st 2017 @ 9:58am
                BurgyGreen said | October 31st 2017 @ 9:58am | ! Report

                Yeah it’s a huge shame with Silk. He always seems to be dominating grade and Futures League but has really struggled in the Shield. If I remember correctly, he captained Australia A didn’t he? Perhaps it’d be worth giving him a middle order spot rather than batting him at the top. Open with Wade or something if he really wants a chance to show he can bat.

      • October 30th 2017 @ 9:27pm
        JB said | October 30th 2017 @ 9:27pm | ! Report

        Jhye richardson is showing some serious ability for someone his age ahead of starc, pattinson hazelwood with bat and ball at their age. WA is just an incubator for quicks at the moment has a state produced this much quality fast bowling before?

        • Columnist

          October 30th 2017 @ 11:11pm
          Ronan O'Connell said | October 30th 2017 @ 11:11pm | ! Report

          “Jhye richardson is showing some serious ability for someone his age ahead of starc, pattinson hazelwood with bat and ball at their age.”

          I can’t agree with that. I rate Richardson but at his age Pattinson and Starc were already playing Test cricket.

        • October 31st 2017 @ 8:17am
          George said | October 31st 2017 @ 8:17am | ! Report

          Well, there’s a reason Tremain and Bird moved interstate.

    • Roar Guru

      October 30th 2017 @ 8:54am
      Chris Kettlewell said | October 30th 2017 @ 8:54am | ! Report

      Smith’s form is certainly a worry. Renshaw and Handscomb both need to find some form too, but with Smith you’ve got someone who we generally rely on to score lots of runs, so we certainly need him in good form. Hopefully the next couple of matches will give him more of a chance to spend some time at the crease and find some form. Often it just takes one innings to get things to click again and get back in form.

      Warner, Khawaja and Starc all had really good games, but in those cases it didn’t “answer questions” as much as just be good to see some of the current test players are finding some good form to start the season.

      The big question points were certainly not answered in any way though. Keeping spot especially, with all the aspirants really failing miserably. Maxwell’s form continues to really struggle, and unless he can turn it around massively over the next couple of games it’s hard to see him featuring at the Gabba in a few weeks. But nobody really put their hand up for that position. Cartwright is probably the front-runner at this point after some semi-decent scores, but they weren’t the sorts of innings to really ink anything in at this point. Plenty of intrigue over the next couple of matches still.

      • Columnist

        October 30th 2017 @ 8:57am
        Ronan O'Connell said | October 30th 2017 @ 8:57am | ! Report

        Khawaja was magnificent, he looked in complete control on what was a very tricky deck against a quality attack.

        It was a fantastic statement from him after the major disappointment of being overlooked for the India Tests and then dropped in Bangladesh.

        • Roar Guru

          October 30th 2017 @ 10:13am
          Red Kev said | October 30th 2017 @ 10:13am | ! Report

          It’d be nice if the selectors give him some backing overseas. It took Warner until the fourth test (7 straight innings) in India to pass 50 (and still only averaged 24 for the series), Khawaja gets 1 maybe 2 tests before they drop him.

          • October 30th 2017 @ 11:00am
            Ross said | October 30th 2017 @ 11:00am | ! Report

            I agree, khawaja scored a century when all failed to even get past 50 and he played Ahmad wrll with a sweeps, cuts and using his feet. Like Warner he can do well in Asia if we just give him a full series and don’t drop him after one game

            • October 30th 2017 @ 5:19pm
              Stephen said | October 30th 2017 @ 5:19pm | ! Report

              Khawaja was all class on the weekend, showed how to put value on your wicket and grit to score on such a difficult deck

              • October 30th 2017 @ 5:21pm
                Stephen said | October 30th 2017 @ 5:21pm | ! Report

                I have noticed that on seeming decks smith struggles when the ball is moving around so him coming in at 3 is not ideal, however with khawaja able to handle pace and swing so well he makes for an ideal 3 allowing smith to flourish at 4.

          • October 31st 2017 @ 4:53am
            Chris Love said | October 31st 2017 @ 4:53am | ! Report

            Well Said BigKev. Atrocious how Khawaja has been treated..

      • October 30th 2017 @ 9:03am
        Don Freo said | October 30th 2017 @ 9:03am | ! Report

        After Tassie’s second dig debacle, wouldn’t it be fun to see them get rid of some batting dead wood?

        Even if Doran and McDermott (finger injury) don’t take the gloves they still have Paine, Dunk and Tom Triffitt who all keep and bat better than The Mouth with the Mitts.

        Adam Griffiths could reduce the keeper connundrum to a choice of 2. Maybe Bancroft will have to keep at WA to find a way to slip Agar and Behrendorff back in.

        • October 30th 2017 @ 10:20am
          Joe Bell said | October 30th 2017 @ 10:20am | ! Report

          On that note, is Bancroft interested in keeping in long form cricket, long term? If he is going to open/bat in the top 4, I can’t imagine he is going to be super keen on keeping too?

          • October 31st 2017 @ 9:34am
            jameswm said | October 31st 2017 @ 9:34am | ! Report

            How good a keeper is he?

        • October 30th 2017 @ 10:59am
          George said | October 30th 2017 @ 10:59am | ! Report

          Even Stoinis is a better first-class bat than Mouthew.

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