Steve O’ Keefe might have floored India completely with his bowling in the first Test but Australian skipper Steve Smith’s gritty knock was one of the key reasons behind Australia’s dominating win.
His knock came on a surface which was poor for batting and also made Australia’s path to victory clear. Batting away from home is always a Test, especially when the conditions are tailor-made not to suit your batting style.
Smith’s antics reminded us of some of the other such fabulous knocks which the Australian captains of the past have produced in the past on foreign soil.
Let’s take a look.
Don Bradman – 102* v England, Lord’s, 1938
Unarguably the greatest batsmen ever to have played the game, Sir Don Bradman and his batting credentials don’t need any introduction.
His leadership was also remarkable and the burden of leading the side did not affect his batting at all. The 2nd Test against England during the 1938 Ashes is remembered for Bradman’s fighting 102* run knock that saved the Test for the visitors.
After failing to score in the first innings, the legend walked out to bat at 8 for 1 and while chasing 415 to win in the fourth and the final day. Australian batsmen were not able to stay in the middle for a long and departed in short successions.
However, the skipper made the difference and went on to play till stumps to draw the match.
Ricky Ponting – 156 v England, Old Trafford
Ricky Ponting’s calibre as a batsman is often compared to the greatest of all – Don Bradman. While he played many splendid knocks in his career that made the opposition look inferior, his fighting 156 against arch rivals England displayed the typical ‘never say die’ attitude that defined Australia.
After the dramatic loss by two runs at Edgbaston which saw England level the in the 2005 Ashes at 1-1, Australia was put in a tough situation as England set a target of 422 for the visitors to chase with two days still to unfold. Ponting walked in at no.3 and played at his best 4th innings knock to try and save the Test. Ponting single-handedly saved Australia from going 1-2 down as he battled his way to 156 on a tired Old Trafford pitch.
Allan Border – 196 v England, Lord’s:
Allan Border led the Australian reply to England’s functional first innings total of 290 runs with a fluent 196-run knock at Lord’s. Border had to come early after the tourists experienced a small top order collapse as the top three batsmen failed to give a proper start. Border quickly resorted to a counter-attacking approach and began adding runs swiftly to the scoreboard.
After struggling to find support initially, he combined with Greg Richie and took Australia past 300 runs mark. While the latter departed for 94, Border continued to torment the English bowlers and ended with 196 runs to his credit as Australia finished with 425 on the board and a good 135 runs lead.
The lead eventually turned out to be vital as it laid the platform for the Aussies to win the match by 4 wickets.
Greg Chappell – 176 v New Zealand, Wellington:
This was another knock by an Australian skipper which completely demoralised the opposition. After being put to bat first, Australia got off to a swift start before finding themselves in a tricky position. They lost two quick wickets at 57 after being batting for no loss at 50 runs mark. This marked Chappell’s arrival to the crease and the right-hander went on to smoothly hit 176 laced with 23 fours and 2 sixes. The beauty of the knock remains his display of responsibility whilst batting with the lower order batsman. He found no worthy batting partner throughout the innings and paced the scoreboard with his audacious stroke making. The 64 runs from opener Graeme Wood was the second best performance for Australia followed by scores of 23 y Rod Marsh and 25 by Jeff Thompson. If not for his sensible batting, Australia would have slumped badly instead of winning it by 8 wickets later.
Steve Smith – 109 v India, Pune:
When Steve Smith and men arrived in India for the 4- match Test series in 2016, They were welcomed with a dry rank turner for the opening Test in Pune. Many instantly felt India, with both top ranked spinners in the side, would easily win and extend their unbeaten winning streak which had reached 19 matches.
However, that was not supposed to happen. After winning the toss and managing 260 in the first innings, left-arm spinner Steve O’ Keefe punctured the Indian batting order with his 6 wicket stunner to bundle out India for just 105 runs. Australia now needed improved performance to gain an advantage of the 155 run lead and Steve Smith ensured that nothing went wrong.
The skipper defied the Indian spinner and went on to hit 109 in the 3rd innings to put Australia in a winning position in day three itself. Although the knock included 5 lives, the skipper was lauded for his batting on the dusty wicket.