A decision on whether the Indian Premier League (IPL) will go ahead in 2020 may come sooner rather than later.
What a paradox – Australia losing The Oval Test and celebrating as they had earlier retained the Ashes.
Regardless of the outcome, Steve Smith’s feats will never be forgotten. The man booed in June was justifiably cheered lustily in September. But for his consistent high-scoring, Australia would have surrendered the urn.
He amassed 774 runs in four Tests at an average of 110.57, scoring 144 and 142 at Birmingham, 92 at Lord’s, 211 and 82 at Manchester, and 80 and 23 at The Oval.
The next best batsman, England’s Ben Stokes, scored 333 fewer runs, despite playing one more Test. His average of 55.12 was less than half Smith’s.
In the 2017-18 series in Australia, Smith was equally run-hungry, registering 141 not out in Brisbane, 40 and 6 in Adelaide, 239 in Perth, 76 and 102 not out in Melbourne, and 83 in Sydney – 687 runs at 137.40.
Thus, in two successive Ashes series, Smith totalled 1461 runs in nine Tests at a Bradmanesque average of 121.75.
In these two series, he hit six centuries (including two double centuries) and five fifties. He recorded 50 or more in ten consecutive innings, from Perth in 2017 to The Oval in 2019, and was adjudged man of the match in Brisbane, Perth, Birmingham and Manchester.
His Ashes series average of 137.40 in 2017-18 in Australia is second only to Don Bradman’s of 139.14 in England in 1930. Next best is Englishman Wally Hammond’s 113.12 in Australia in 1928-29, followed by Smith’s 110.57 in 2019.
In the series just concluded, Smith’s 774 runs is fifth only to Bradman’s 974 in England in 1930, Hammond’s 905 in Australia in 1928-29, Mark Taylor’s 839 in England in 1989, and Bradman’s 810 in Australia in 1936-37.
But against four Tests played by Smith this season, Bradman and Hammond had played five each and Taylor six.
Just as Smith could not put a foot wrong in this series, David Warner flipped and flopped and gave Australia horror starts. However, his three ducks in a row is not a record for a specialist batsman.
Mark Waugh registered four zeroes in succession against Sri Lanka in August-September 1992 – 0 and 0 at Colombo and 0 and 0 at Moratuwa. It was the sixth instance in history, but the first by a top-order batsman.
However, in his next two Tests, against the West Indies three months later, Waugh scored 39 and 60 in Brisbane, and 112 and 16 in Melbourne. Warner could manage only 5 and 11 following his three ducks.
This series also produced a first when, in the second Test at Lord’s, Marnus Labuschagne became the first ever concussion substitute in international cricket, replacing Smith. Lambuschague scored 59.
Another curiosity was that no English bowler took wickets in both innings of the final Test – Stuart Broad took zero and four, Jofra Archer six and zero, Sam Curran three and zero, Chris Woakes one and zero, Jack Leach zero and four, while Joe Root did not bowl and then claimed two.