When Smith said he'd found his hands, it was a masterful understatement

When Smith said he'd found his hands, it was a masterful understatement

There is a temptation in the consumption of modern sport to reduce the achievements of athletes who make the sublime commonplace to a click on the web, or a clip on the news. You've seen it all before, so you can give it a brief once-over and move into the next shiny thing.

Brilliance executed without a great deal of context ... an early season one-day international, for example ... can float by even faster. So it's worth standing back and appreciating the work of a modern master instead of saving the plaudits for a retrospective.

Steve Smith's back-to-back 62-ball centuries against India to open the summer have been wondrous even by his standards. Even those closest to him have been left scratching around the crease for superlatives after an output of 209 runs from 130 deliveries across two matches against India, including 25 boundaries and six sixes.

Marnus Labuschagne had the best seat in the house as Smith, having recently "found his hands", catapulted his side to another winning total and set down the most ominous of markers ahead of the four-Test tour beginning on December 17.


"That was one of the best innings I've seen in one-day cricket from Steve ... not only Steve but from anyone," Labuschagne said. "The way he batted was superb. It almost felt like he didn't give an opportunity, didn't take a risk. When someone is doing that, it's scary.

"Towards the back end, Steve really took the game on. There's been two very big scores in the past two games, thanks to Steve."

Where do you bowl to Steve Smith when he's in this sort of form?

Where do you bowl to Steve Smith when he's in this sort of form?Credit:Getty Images

Smith is a noted tinkerer at the best of times but was especially motivated to change up parts of his game after an Indian Premier League stint with the Rajasthan Royals that saw him dismissed for under 10 six times in 14 appearances.

The 31-year-old has any number of experts he can access for assistance with his game, not the least of them being Australian coach Justin Langer. But time spent shadow batting in hotel quarantine provided him with the solitude to troubleshoot his own technique, and who could be better qualified?

"Steve is the best coach of himself and that’s what sets some of these guys apart. He knows his game better than anyone, so he knows how he needs to feel," said Trent Woodhill, the batting coach who has worked closely with Smith over the years.

And it's all about the hands. Late, fast, being pulled through the line of the ball like a catapult. And when Smith finds an early one to his liking when he's in that sort of mood, it can well be curtains for the attack, regardless of where they put the ball.


"There’s nothing better than the on-drive he hit early in his innings. He hit it straight down the ground and he nailed it. That’s an indication where he talks about his hands being in a very good place," Woodhill observed.

"I think it’s just a mindset with Steven. He’s different to most, I keep comparing him to [Kane] Williamson and [Virat] Kholi, but the last few knocks have just been out of this world.

"That means he’s even later on the ball, which means his momentum and weight transfer is perfect. Where do you bowl to him? What length, what line, what speed…how do you deal with a threat when he’s like that?

"His focus can be a little off centre and he still does well. But when he’s in this zone, you literally can’t bowl to him."

The third ODI will be played at Canberra's Manuka Oval on Wednesday.

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