Smith at ease with T20 World Cup fate as Tests loom

Ben McKay |

Steve Smith is relishing his new role as an opening batter for the Australian Test team.
Steve Smith is relishing his new role as an opening batter for the Australian Test team.

Steve Smith has all but admitted he’ll miss the T20 World Cup after his poor showing in New Zealand, saying he’s “not too fussed” whether he goes to the tournament in June.

Ever the competitor, the 34-year-old great has put the T20 disappointment in his rear-view mirror, eyeing runs in the Test series starting on Thursday.

Just as he’s done in the Test team, Smith replaced David Warner at the top of the Australian order for the second and third T20s at Auckland’s Eden Park, falling cheaply each time.

“I got a couple of decent balls, to be fair,” Smith told AAP.

On Friday, he paddled at a rising ball well outside off stump, snicking it behind, and on Sunday he was trapped in front by Lockie Ferguson, possibly the bowler of the series.

“(Adam) Milne got one to take off in the second game, which was tough,” Smith said.

“Lockie, when that sun was setting, it was quite difficult to pick up and he gave me a nice in-swinger.

“Look, it wasn’t ideal, but it is what it is and whatever will be will be from here.”

Smith, a three-time World Cup winner, including the 2021 T20 edition, said he didn’t think there was an opening for him in the T20 side.

T20 World Cup 2021
Steve Smith was part of the Australian team that won the 2021 T20 World Cup. (AP PHOTO)

“I think they’re pretty settled up top, to be honest, with (Travis) Head, Warner and (Mitch) Marsh in the top three,” he said.

“I’m not really sure what (selectors) want to do. I’m not really too fussed either way. If I’m there, I’m there. If I’m not, I’m not.”

Exclusion from the World Cup squad could end his international T20 career, but Smith’s relaxed attitude towards that sat in contrast to his enthusiasm for the upcoming Test series.

In his 107-Test career, Smith has toured New Zealand for Tests just once – and dominated.

He averaged 131 in a two-Test series in 2016, making 71 at the Basin Reserve, then backing up with 138 and an unbeaten 53 at Hagley Oval – the venues for this year’s series.

In the most recent Tests between the two nations – the 2019/20 series in Australia – Smith’s battle with Neil Wagner was well documented.

The South African-born Kiwi dismissed Smith four times in five innings using targeted short-pitched deliveries, with figures of 4-27 off 26.3 overs against the New South Welshman.

Neil Wagner
New Zealand bowler Neil Wagner had an outstanding record against Australian veteran Steve Smith. (Michael Dodge/AAP PHOTOS)

On Tuesday morning in conversation with AAP at the Basin Reserve, Smith said he expected “something very similar” from Wagner in this series.

Four hours later, 37-year-old Wagner announced his retirement in a tearful press conference.

Wagner called time after being informed by coach Gary Stead that he wouldn’t be in the team for the Australia series, denying him a reunion with Smith in the middle.

“I’ve really obviously had a fun time against him, but it doesn’t guarantee I’m going to take his wicket again. He’s a class player,” Wagner said of his Aussie rival.

Smith confirmed he would open the batting again in New Zealand, downplaying the difference from his previous roles.

“It’s fun, but honestly I don’t see it as anything different,” he said.

“I batted at three for an extended part of my career and I batted at four, where I’ve been in inside of two overs. It’s really nothing that new to me.”