The Ashes: Smith comes of age to act as Ponting’s true successor

Steve Smith
Steve Smith
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When Steve Smith took guard in Dominica on June 3, he made the final step in his remarkable journey from leg-spinning joke-maker to run-hungry record-breaker.

By his recent standards the innings was unremarkable, 25 from 90 balls against a moderate West Indian attack, but he did it from the No 3 spot.

Australia have, over the years, prized that position more than most. It is where the inimitable Sir Donald Bradman forged his legacy; the position Ricky Ponting made his own for a glorious decade between 2001 and 2011.

Yet something changed after Ponting surrendered to the ravages of time by preceding his retirement with a drop down the order.

The replacements came and went, some more quickly than others, some more successfully.

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Shaun Marsh, Usman Khawaja, Shane Watson and Alex Doolan all took a turn, but it was not until Smith capped his stunning rise to prominence by accepting the job that it felt quite right.

Australia seem sure to have found their next great No 3, and it would be no surprise to see Smith matching Ponting’s 10-year tenure.

Initially selected for his promise as a wrist-spinner, he batted three times at No 8 and once at 
No 9 in his first two Tests, as well as batting elsewhere in the middle order.

With his bowling hardly pulling up trees and runs scarce, he was painted in some quarters as a glorified court jester.

A maiden Test century against England at the Oval in 2013 was a watershed, 138 reasons to believe Smith could deliver as a Baggy Green batsman – and since the start of 2014 he has done nothing but. In 12 Tests he has scored seven more hundreds at a staggering average of 89.83, creeping up the order until landing at first wicket down in the Caribbean.

England have played against Smith before, but they have never seen anything like Australia’s new No 3.