Smith one-liner embarrasses England
Cricket legend Geoffrey Boycott has blasted England's approach in the first Ashes Test with both bat and ball and urged the hosts to try something different to solve the giant headache that is Steve Smith.
Smith crashed centuries in both innings of Australia's 251-run win at Edgbaston, marking his return to Test cricket from his ball tampering ban in style. And he'll be hungry for more when the second Test starts at Lord's on Wednesday night (AEST).
Much of the discussion since that first Test has centred around how to get Smith out. England tried everything, it seemed, in Birmingham to dismiss the former Aussie captain - stacking the leg side field then stacking the off side, bowling straight and bowling wide - but nothing worked.
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Smith's record against England is phenomenal. In his past 10 innings against Australia's fiercest rival he's compiled 1116 runs at the ludicrous average of 139.5.
It's why he said after his second hundred: "I love Test cricket and I love playing against England. It's a terrific place to play Ashes cricket and these last four days, it's felt like Christmas morning every morning coming to do this."
Smith was reflecting on being back playing Test cricket for the first time since the South African controversy but Boycott said the right-hander comparing playing England to enjoying Christmas should embarrass his opposition.
"He is right but a comment like that should be embarrassing for the England players and should really hurt them," Boycott wrote in a column for The Telegraph the day before the second Test, saying England captain Joe Root and Co. need to do something different like the Poms did during the infamous Bodyline series to stop Don Bradman.
"Why not try bowling at the stumps with plenty of protection on the on side? If he misses then leg before and bowled come back into play.
"Our seamers have yet to try bowling around the wicket to him. They are quick to go around the wicket to left-handers and in fact prefer that mode of attack but not to Smith."
English off-spinner Moeen Ali has been dropped for the second Test after a dismal showing at Edgbaston, replaced by left-arm orthodox spinner Jack Leach. One of the theories doing the rounds is Smith struggles against left-arm spin more than any other type of bowling so Leach may be the answer to England's Smith woes.
Smith's average against left-arm tweakers hovers around 35 - well short of his career mark of nearly 63.
Exciting young fast bowler Jofra Archer is essentially a lock to make his Test debut on Wednesday night and England will be hoping his extreme pace and affection for sending down well-directed short balls is another weapon that may disrupt Australia's batting machine.
But while England's bowlers had no answer to Smith in the series opener, the team's batsmen also floundered when needed most in the second innings. Asked to bat for the entirety of day five to salvage a draw - or more unrealistically, chase down 398 for victory - they collapsed in a heap and were dismissed for just 146 in 52.3 overs.
Batting at No. 9, Chris Woakes top-scored with 37 while Root and Jason Roy both scored 28. Apart from that, only two other players made it to double figures as Australia drew first blood.
England won the recent World Cup with an attack-at-all-times approach, particularly with the bat, so adjusting from that aggressive outlook to the slower pace of Test cricket was always going to be a challenge.
It was a gameplan England had spent four years concocting and it paid off in the one-day format but Boycott was furious to hear England batting coach Graham Thorpe had reportedly told the players to play their natural game when trying to save the match on day five, rather than instructing them to dig in for the long haul and not worry about the score.
"That last day was about saving the match, not runs. I expected some common sense guidance from an ex-player who is now the England batting coach. The advice the players were given was rubbish," Boycott wrote.
"He also said it was important to rotate the strike. Why? What about just staying in and occupying the crease? That would have saved the match.
"It makes me angry and at the same time sad to hear he is giving our batsmen such advice. It's as if the coaching staff and players have been sucked into believing there is only one way to bat.
"If England keep batting like lemmings falling over a cliff then we are all in for a dreadful Ashes series. If it ain't working then it's time to change or some of the batsmen and some of the coaches need to go."