World reacts to ‘unbelievable’ Smith
IF there's anything in cricket more difficult than getting Steve Smith out - and we're not sure there is - it's coming up with superlatives to describe just how good the Aussie superstar is.
Words just don't seem to do his incredible feats justice but that won't stop the world trying to articulate just how special the best batsman since Don Bradman is.
In his first Test back from his ball tampering ban, the 30-year-old was desperate to make up for lost time. He single-handedly saved Australia's first innings at Edgbaston with a spectacular 144 out of a total of 284, and he backed it up with another ton in the second innings, scoring 142.
The incredible individual performance means England is now chasing 398 to win after the Aussies declared at 7/487.
Not even Bradman scored two centuries in an Ashes Test in England, and Smith noted after play it's the first time he's raised his bat twice in one game in any form of cricket in his life.
"It was a dream comeback in a way," Smith said. "To be able to score two hundreds in a match in the first Ashes Test match - it's something I've never done in any form of cricket in my life so it's incredibly special and special to be able to put us in the position we're in now going into day five.
"I wasn't hitting the ball as well as I would have liked at the start of the week and made sure I put in the hours to find my rhythm and my groove.
"Going into day one I felt in a really good place and was ready to go out and play so ... just pleased to have done what I've achieved over the last four days and being able to put the team in a really good position going into the last day.
"I'm over the moon, it's what dreams are made of."
On a wearing wicket and with the Aussies behind in the game, Smith was immovable. England tried everything to break him but the alphabet isn't long enough to list all the plans that failed to disrupt the freak of nature.
The Poms stacked the leg side then stacked the off side. They tried a leg slip and leg gully, and with Stuart Broad steaming in they had a short third man and silly point. These are fields you simply don't see in cricket, but arose out of sheer desperation to dislodge Smith.
It was fitting then that when Smith was faced with a 7-2 off side field - one that would force most batsmen into their shells - he somehow found the smallest gap with a sublime cover drive that raced to the boundary, taking him from 99 to 103.
He wasn't done there, continuing to drive Australia closer towards what would be an incredible victory as he paired up with Matthew Wade (110) to make England's life miserable, showing once again his mental fortitude is as good as his batsmanship.
"When you're out in the middle it's easy to block all that stuff out (the crowd noise and what's happened over the past 16 months)," Smith said. "I'm just there and I'm playing the game and doing what I love.
"Got myself in a nice headspace today where I wasn't really thinking too much other than where the field was and where they were trying to bowl to me and just hitting the ball or leaving the ball, just playing the game."
Punters on social media declared Smith's effort in the first Ashes Test "unbelievable" and even Prime Minister Scott Morrison chimed in on Twitter, writing: "Steve Smith. Two innings, two tons, too good!"
Steve Smith!! Unbelievable stuff.— Ben Thomas (@___benthomas) August 4, 2019
We don’t deserve Steve Smith... he is truly unbelievable #Ashes19— Peter Hooley (@PeterHooley12) August 4, 2019
'TAKING THE P***': CRICKET WORLD REACTS
Former England captain Michael Vaughan said he has never seen a better Test batsman in his life than Smith - and it's hard to argue with him.
"Steve Smith is the greatest Test batsman I have seen in my time. He has got the hunger. Technically he looks awkward but he just works. He is going to send a few captains under," Vaughan told the BBC.
Cricket, and batting especially, is not easy but Smith is on another level to everyone else, prompting Vaughan to suggest on Twitter he was "taking the p***" at Edgbaston.
Plenty of other cricketers past and present were in awe of Smith.
Stopped off while on family bike ride to have a little look at the score👀👀 Smith is just something else #back2back just #differentgravy #Worldclass & making the difference in this match so far...#Ashes— Alex Tudor (@alextudorcoach) August 4, 2019
Steve Smith: Test batsman: Peerless in his generation.— ian bishop (@irbishi) August 4, 2019
BEST SINCE BRADMAN: BY THE NUMBERS
Smith became just the eighth man to score twin tons in an Ashes Test and the first since Matthew Hayden achieved the feat Down Under in 2002.
It's also the first time in 22 years a player has reached triple figures twice in an Ashes Test in England after Steve Waugh was the last to do so in Manchester in 1997.
Smith is only the fifth Australian to score two centuries in an Ashes contest, at the same time taking his tally of Test centuries against England to 10. That puts him level with Waugh at equal-third on the list of Ashes centurions behind Jack Hobbs (12) and Bradman, who registered 19 centuries against the old enemy.
Remarkably, Smith has taken 28 fewer innings than Waugh to hit double digits.
Smith's 25th Test hundred came in just his 119th innings. Only Bradman (68 innings) has piled on three figures that many times in quicker time.
Smith also has the most Test runs by anyone in the history of the five-day format after 119 innings, surpassing England legend Wally Hammond on day four in Birmingham by climbing to a career total of 6845.
Smith's hot streak against England is mind-blowing. In his past 10 innings against Australia's fiercest rival he's compiled 1116 runs at the ludicrous average of 139.5.
In his past six innings against England he's passed 75 on each occasion, making Smith the only player in history to score at least 75 in half a dozen consecutive knocks against the same opponent in Tests.
H AS THE MESSAGE FINALLY CLICKED?
Smith was booed relentlessly on day one. When he walked to the crease, when he reached 50, when he reached 100 and even when he left the middle as the last man out, sections of the crowd gave him hell.
Not this time.
There were pockets of booing but it wasn't nearly as boisterous as it was on Thursday. Instead, cheers and applause drowned out the negativity as Smith soaked up the adulation upon reaching 100.
The former Australian captain said during the World Cup the booing is like "white noise" and he doesn't take any notice of it. He said earlier in the Test he doesn't get any added motivation from the boos but clearly they aren't hurting his performance.
Several cricket greats slammed the crowd's treatment of Smith on the opening day, saying fans should at least have had the dignity to celebrate his incredible 144 when he was walking off the ground.
Not everyone got the message it must be said, but more people were prepared to acknowledge Smith's success as he rocketed to his second century in Birmingham.