After a lean trot in the first two Tests, Steve Smith resumed his customary role as a thorn in India’s side in Sydney. The incomparable Aussie will bee hungry to double-down on his form resurgence and steer his country to victory in the Brisbane decider.
India bravely batted out a draw to arguably claim a moral victory in the New Year’s Test at the SCG. Meanwhile, Australia’s sledging tactics and gamesmanship again came under an unforgiving microscope.
But with the Border-Gavaskar Trophy series locked at 1-all heading into the fourth and final Test at The Gabba, the hosts can take at least one major positive out of the Sydney stalemate.
Defying a staggeringly good career record against India, Steve Smith struggled in the first two Tests. The champion batsman scored 1 and 1* in Brisbane, and 0 and 8 in Melbourne. Spinner Ravi Ashwin had Smith out once in each match, while Jasprit Bumrah rattled his stumps at the MCG.
But the 31-year-old roared back into form with his first century in 16 months at the SCG, scoring a masterful 131 off 226 balls in the first innings. A patient 81 during Australia’s second dig secured man-of-the-match honours.
Steve Smith has hit his critics for six, scoring his first century of the summer.
— 9News Queensland (@9NewsQueensland) January 8, 2021
Dominance against India, first-innings record point to Smith run spree
Smith’s return to top form is one of the foremost factors that have driven Australia into $1.44 favouritism for the fourth Test, which gets underway Friday morning. Meanwhile, there’s a juicy $6.00 on offer for cricket punters willing to back Smith to score another first-innings century and Australia to win.
In 13 Tests against India, Smith now averages 75.04 (90.09 in Australia) – including eight centuries.
Smith has also enjoyed his time in the Test arena at The Gabba. He boasts an average of 64.33 from six Tests at the venue, including three tons. Smith scored 133 in his only previous Brisbane clash with India in 2014.
It’s also worth noting 23 of Smith’s 27 Test centuries were achieved in the first innings, yet another reason to consider the Smith first-innings 100/Australia win option.
Injury-hit India on the ropes
But injuries have ravaged their playing stocks. Already without a host of top-liners – including Virat Kohli, who returned home after the first Test to be at the birth of his child – India are now without Ravi Jadeja, while Ashwin, Bumrah and Hanuma Vihari are also in major doubt.
How good was R Ashwin on Monday, battling through back pain to secure the draw?
(📹 available in the subcontinent) #AUSvIND
— ESPNcricinfo (@ESPNcricinfo) January 12, 2021
The absence of Ashwin, who also dismissed Smith once in Sydney, and Bumrah would severely hamper India’s hopes of combating Smith’s genius.