Steve Smith after making 91 not out against New Zealand on Friday.
Steve Smith after making 91 not out against New Zealand on Friday.

Smith, Warner happy to be quiet achievers

Steve Smith and David Warner are not allowed back in the driver's seat for Australia.

So they have taken a back seat.

At last week's training camp in Brisbane, Glenn Maxwell noticed the star batsmen were "a little bit more reserved" than before their 12-month bans for ball tampering.

"They've been getting a scope on the room and working out where they fit in this new one-day side," Maxwell told the Sunday Herald Sun.

"They've been out of the Australian system for 12 months and they're sort of feeling their way back in.

"I'm sure in no time they'll be as vocal as they once were in team meetings.

"But for them it's about sitting back and listening to how we've been going about it and why we're changing the way we play one-day cricket."

Smith and Warner stayed silent last week, their choice as much as Cricket Australia's, but obvious questions were diverted elsewhere.

How would they fit in? Was there any tension, particularly with the bowlers? Would their arrival unsettle a winning formula?

Their teammates were well-rehearsed.

The "business as usual" and "it's like they never left" lines were rolled out enough to believe Cricket Australia had schooled its players.

But behind closed doors, Maxwell said there was a slightly different tune.

It sounded like Smith and Warner were showing the "great humility" coach Justin Langer requested.

Smith and Warner want their bats to do the talking in England before they open their mouths publicly, and, while Warner failed twice against New Zealand, Smith was on song.

Australian captain Aaron Finch was impressed by Smith's front-foot drives down the ground, particularly on a slow pitch.

Maxwell enjoyed partnerships of 104 (91) and 81 (79) with the former captain. With the best vantage point, Maxwell said it was vintage Smith.

"Batting together was just like old times," Maxwell said, referencing their 191-run partnership in Ranchi when both players made Test tons in 2017.

"His idiosyncrasies are still there, he's still fidgeting around and doing all of his usual things.

"And he's still got that amazing ability to find the rope in different areas. He was brilliant, it was great to watch."

Maxwell was right. Smith would constantly tug at his shirt, and, every delivery he would bob two or three times at the crease, touch his pads, in anticipation.

Smith is a busy cricketer, and that's exactly what New Zealand coach Gary Stead noticed.

"He's got a great ability to score off a lot of balls," Stead said.

"Your good ball can still go for one. That's a sign of a really good player - when your best balls can still be hit for runs."

Kiwi Doug Bracewell admitted his bowling plans for Smith didn't work.


Glenn Maxwell said he enjoyed being back at the crease with Steve Smith. Picture: Getty Images
Glenn Maxwell said he enjoyed being back at the crease with Steve Smith. Picture: Getty Images

"He moves around and he scores everywhere," Bracewell said.

"He's quite hard to bowl to. He's got the touch game and he's got the power game."

Aussie spinner Nathan Lyon had a trundle to Smith at training last week.

"It's the first time in 12 months that I've been hit over mid-off," Lyon said.

But the chink in Smith -who is setting skinfolds records- remains his surgically-repaired right elbow.

Smith spent hours throwing himself into the turf at a local rugby ground this year, practising rolling on his right shoulder to protect his elbow.

A lunging one-handed catch on Monday showed his sharp reflexes remain. But Smith is yet to field in the outer because he can't throw overarm.

You wonder if, in a tight World Cup run chase, rival batsmen will feel confident taking on his arm.

While Warner's hot IPL form cooled against New Zealand, Langer loved his Virat Kohli-like energy.

"He's got a look in his eye at the moment," Langer said.


David Warner (left) and Aaron Finch have a strong relationship. Picture: AAP
David Warner (left) and Aaron Finch have a strong relationship. Picture: AAP

On Monday Warner regularly offered Finch and bowler Kane Richardson advice mid-over and, on Friday, he was very chatty in the field with Pat Cummins.

Warner smacked four boundaries, including a six, off Bracewell short balls, but then the Kiwi quick dismissed Warner for a duck the next game.

"We bowled too short (to Warner) on a slow wicket," Bracewell said.

"So we talked about getting him coming forward and bowling tighter. He's got a very simple game plan - he stays still and he's got good hand-eye (co-ordination)."

Stead said the key against Warner was to keep asking "hard questions".

"Hit the pitch really hard and in good areas," Stead said.

"Both those (wicket) balls were on good, hard length areas. But he showed his class in the first game and certainly we don't think we've found a solution for David Warner."

Langer described Smith's unbeaten 89 as a "tutorial in batting" and said the "heart-warming knock" helped him sleep that night.

Langer would've nodded off easily on Friday night's flight to Gallipoli after Smith posted an unbeaten 91.

Warner's final two knocks delivered just two runs.

But given he exited the IPL as the leading run-scorer it'll still be opposition bowlers, and not Langer, losing sleep over him.



Steve Smith and David Warner in the three practice matches against New Zealand

SMITH: 22 off 43 balls, 89* (77), 91* (108).

WARNER: 39 off 43 balls, 0 (6), 2 (6).


Steve Smith: 202 (runs) 202 (ave)

Glenn Maxwell: 122 61.0

Usman Khawaja: 83 27.7

Shaun Marsh: 75 25.0

Aaron Finch: 68 34.0