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The Roar


'He can dictate' - Warner sees clear upside in Smith's shift to the top

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13th January, 2024

David Warner has predicted Steve Smith’s move to the top will free up the veteran’s game and stop opposition teams peppering him with short balls early in his innings.

Speaking for the first time since Smith was announced as Australia’s Test opener, the retired Warner backed his long-time teammate to make the role his own while also applauding Cameron Green’s selection at No.4.

Questions have been raised over whether it is worth destabilising the middle order to make the changes, with Smith having never opened before in Test cricket.

But Warner can see a clear upside.

Since Smith was struck by a Jofra Archer bouncer in the 2019 Ashes at Lord’s, teams have made a clear point to employ a bumper barrage against him.

LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 07: Steven Smith of Australia bats during day one of the ICC World Test Championship Final between Australia and India at The Oval on June 07, 2023 in London, England. (Photo by Alex Davidson-ICC/ICC via Getty Images)

Steve Smith. (Photo by Alex Davidson-ICC/ICC via Getty Images)

That has resulted in the right-hander’s scoring rates dropping and his average going with it despite spending long periods at the crease.

As an opener, though, Warner cannot see teams employing the same tactic and wasting the new ball. 


“People have been bowling short to him when he first gets in, but he finds a way,” Warner said. 

“Early on, they’re going to try and swing the ball and pitch the ball up. 

“And he’s going to be allowed to get into his game and his game plan. Get into the rhythm of how he wants to bat and he can dictate. 

“So I’m actually looking forward to seeing how he goes.

“When you’re the best batter, you will always adapt. We know he can do that, he’s capable of that.”

Smith is due to ramp up preparations for his first Test at the top this weekend, with Australia’s players reconvening in Adelaide ahead of Wednesday’s series opener against West Indies.


The selectors’ decision to move Smith up the order means Australia will likely need two new openers in coming years when he and Usman Khawaja retire.

But Warner said it was worth it, given there is now new blood in the middle order with 29-year-old Marnus Labuschagne and 24-year-old Cameron Green.

“It’s a good taste for Greeny at 24 years of age,” Warner said. 

“Smithy’s probably got a year or two in him. Usman probably another year or two in him. They’re going to have to look for two new guys up top the order. 

“But to get that number four replacement as well, that’s your foundation at three and four.

“So if they can knuckle that down, they’ve got a base in the middle. Then they just have a look for some more openers.”

David Warner

David Warner (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe, File)


Warner’s point around Smith’s move is backed up by the fact the former No.1-ranked batsman averages 106.2 when coming to the crease in the opening two overs of a Test innings.

Smith also averaged a Bradman-esque 110.54 in the 2019 Ashes, when regularly called to the crease early in the innings.

“I am (excited). I like facing the newer ball,” Smith said on Fox Sports before his Sixers beat Warner’s Thunder in the BBL on Friday night.

“I think you look back to 2019 Ashes, I was in pretty early there most of the time where I was facing the new ball.

“I batted number three for a number of years as well and was in early and did pretty well against the new ball.

“So it’s nothing new or foreign to me. I enjoy getting in there and getting amongst it and I’m looking forward to that challenge.”