Steve Smith’s woeful use of DRS will hurt Australia in Adelaide

Scott Pryde Roar Guru

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    Well, who saw this coming? Australia’s grip on a two-nothing lead in the Ashes has disappeared in a heartbeat, the second Test now coming down to the wire at the Adelaide Oval and an intense final day of play ahead.

    Australia has squandered a position where it looked like they simply couldn’t lose the match from. After racking up 8 for 442 in their first innings, they had England 7 for 142, a distant 300 runs in arrears.

    Then it started. The momentum reversed with Chris Woakes and Craig Overton combining to put on 66 for the eighth wicket. England ended up with 227, still a long way behind.

    Steve Smith chose not to enforce the follow-on, which, given Australia’s bowlers had struggled to run through the English tail seemed to be a wise option at the time. Australia went to stumps four wickets down and were promptly removed for 138, setting the tourists 354 for victory.

    Not as large a target as Smith was hoping for, but certainly a hefty one; England would have to create history to win.

    The tourists fought their way to stumps though, with almost half the runs on the board only four wickets down. Now, with two daylight sessions to bat, needing 178 runs for victory, England almost appear to be in the driver’s seat.

    It’s a stunning comeback. Something no one could have seen coming.

    Yet, the main talking point out of Day 4 wasn’t the stunning English comeback. It was Steve Smith’s pathetic use of the Decision Review System.

    Steve Smith reacts sad Ashes 2nd Test.

    (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)

    Australia had actually used DRS well throughout the first few days of the match. Shaun Marsh and Tim Paine were both saved reviewing LBW decisions in the first innings within an over of each other.

    David Warner, Steve Smith and Peter Handscomb all saved themselves in the second dig for Australia, although Smith couldn’t save himself a second time.

    England also had some luck – Dawid Malan saved himself once – but they had nothing compared to Australia until last night.

    That many decisions being overturned probably says something more about the umpiring than anything else, but Australia’s second innings reviews will come back to haunt them.

    Smith’s biggest mistake was not reviewing an LBW on Alastair Cook in the fourth over. Josh Hazlewood cannoned a ball into the English opener’s pads, and from the moment Cook missed the ball it looked out. Umpire Chris Gaffaney turned it down and Smith chose not to review.

    Moments later, ball tracking flashed up to show it was doing what we all suspected – hitting the stumps.

    The number of decisions being overturned gave Smith no reason to trust the umpires. Absolutely zero, and it seemed to make him trigger happy later in the innings.

    Cook ended up with 16, out to another review after Gaffaney turned Nathan Lyon down on a huge shout.

    The trend of decisions being wrong didn’t last though, much to the surprise of… well, everyone.

    With England at 3 for 108 and the match delicately poised with Joe Root and Malan at the crease, Smith blew both of his reviews in the space of just four balls.

    The first saw Joe Root given not out to a caught behind off Pat Cummins. With nothing on hotspot or snicko, LBW was also checked, but the ball going over off stump.

    England's Joe Root during day four of the the second Investec Test match at Headingley, Leeds. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday August 28, 2017. See PA story CRICKET England. Photo credit should read: Nigel French/PA Wire.

    (Nigel French/PA Wire)

    Losing one review you can handle, although you have to question the wisdom of reviewing a chancy caught behind.

    Malan was then on strike to Hazlewood, playing back in his crease and being smacked in the pads. Smith again chose to review, but it never looked out, the ball going over the stumps and Australia running out of reviews.

    Not long after, Malan was again hit on the pads. It was turned down by umpire Aleem Dar, with DRS showing it would have been umpire’s call. It would have meant Australia kept their review but that’s academic – there were no reviews left to use.

    The Barmy Army had plenty of fun with it in the stands, but with Joe Root going to stumps on 67 not out and looking like he will make a serious score, England are right in this match.

    They shouldn’t be after the first innings, but one or two bad sessions from the hosts has flipped the match on its head, and a lack of DRS challenges left could hamper Smith and his team today.

    In total, eight decisions have proved to be wrong with seven of those being overturned. It’s little wonder Smith was trigger happy last night.

    The umpiring throughout this second Test has been atrocious, so it would hardly be a surprise to see more poor decisions on the fifth day as everyone (the umpires included) starts to struggle with fatigue.

    If that’s the case, Smith could rue his two moments of madness on the fourth night in Adelaide.

    It could cost him a 2-0 lead in the Ashes.

    Scott Pryde
    Scott Pryde

    One of the mainstays of The Roar, Scott Pryde has written over 1,100 articles covering everything from rugby league to basketball, from tennis to cricket. You can follow him on Twitter @sk_pryde.