Steve Smith impressed against New Zealand. Picture: Getty
Steve Smith impressed against New Zealand. Picture: Getty

Public to decide Smith’s captaincy fate

It was nothing more than a warm ovation from 1200 fans but if it echoes through the summer it might just seal Steve Smith's return as Australian cricket captain.

If the solid gathering at Allan Border Field on Monday are a worthy sample size of the wider community then Australians cricket supporters are sick of looking in rear view mirror at the devastation of cricket's ball-tampering scandal.

David Warner and Smith appeared for the first time in Australian colours since the tampering affair, heartened as much by what didn't happen as what did in Australia's thrilling trial 50-over trial win against New Zealand.

Alex Carey offloads the ball to Steve Smith of Australia during the World Cup practice match between Australia and New Zealand at Allan Border Field.
Alex Carey offloads the ball to Steve Smith of Australia during the World Cup practice match between Australia and New Zealand at Allan Border Field.

You only have to view the occasionally vicious feedback posted online whenever their names are mentioned to know some deep resentment lingers, but for Smith in particular there was notable warmth at his return and an absence of the vitriol that floats through cyberspace.

In any other era the reaction wouldn't matter. This time it does.

Before standing down as Chief Executive of Cricket Australia James Sutherland said public sentiment would be heavily scrutinised before any decision was made on whether Smith captains Australia again.

In other words, if Smith was jeered out to bat all summer his chances of captaining Australia again would have been next to zero, destroyed by unfriendly fire.

But if there is a feeling of warmth and forgiveness - clearly the vibe at Border Field - then he stays alive in a complex equation with variables such as how long Tim Paine lasts and how quickly Travis Head emerges - or if he emerges at all.

"Welcome back Smithy'' bellowed a voice from the grandstand as the Australian side took the field at 9.30am and when Smith (22) batted he received a conspicuously hearty and long-lasting ovation with some people rising from their seats in the grandstand.

Though his playing ban is over, Smith is banned from holding a leadership position for another year.

Let's not get too far ahead of ourselves. Of course there will be brutal times ahead off shore.

A demonstration at serene Allan Border Field, with its tiny grandstands and sparsely populated terraces, would be as unlikely as Snow White throwing a hissy fit and a world away from the chants and taunts sure to flow from England's Barmy Army in the World Cup and Ashes tours.

But for Smith and Warner (39) it was more than a trial.

You could tell that when they snapped their heads forward and privately cussed themselves when they got out. No batsmen were more disappointed in getting out. They knew the world was watching.

Earlier, the duo settled into their new roles as foot soldiers with Smith heading to the slips and Warner to mid-off, life without their hands on the team steering wheels.

Neither player looked overly-animated in the field - it was, after all a trial match - but it took some adjusting to watching Smith at second slip looking relaxed and far less fidgety than the skipper who is a ball of restless animation when he was running the team.

Aaron Finch was the man in charge and it looked that way.

At one point he tossed the ball the ball to Warner who looked at it and handed it straight on to the bowler without any hint of even polished it.

The lessons of the past will linger long.