Smith climbing Mt Bradman one absurd knock at a time

Such is his absolute command of his art and this series, it is always tempting to pitch Steve Smith's achievements into a treacherous comparison with Sir Donald Bradman.

It is a mountain even he cannot scale. Can he?

At Old Trafford on Saturday, Smith crushed England - again - with another truly extraordinary, mind-boggling innings which was every bit as impressive as his earlier double century.

 

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A special innings which proved Smith's greatness is relevant in a historic context; but also reminded that as a modern-day marvel he is unlike anything that has ever come before him: including Bradman.

 

Steve Smith brutalised England with his usual quality on day four - just played in fast forward mode.
Steve Smith brutalised England with his usual quality on day four - just played in fast forward mode.

 

It was so one-sided a contest, it had a feel of a father refusing to let his children win in order to teach them a valuable lesson that life can be unfair.

He simply toyed with the old enemy.

Smith turned Old Trafford and a fearsome attack - boasting a Test great with 463 wickets to his name - into his own personal video game.

It wasn't quite StickCricket, in that the runs weren't flowing in fours and sixes exclusively, but it was perhaps unlike any innings Test cricket has seen.

Smith's eccentricities and quirky mannerisms at the crease have been dissected and analysed extensively, but so too should his inventive stroke play and willingness to adapt and manipulate.

Since his return to the Test arena from a 12-month suspension, Smith's approach to batting has been methodical and deliberate, capitalising on his otherworldly concentration and hand-eye coordination.

But after tea on day four, with Australia desperate to become the first touring team to retain the Ashes on these shores since 2001, the situation called for something different - a brazen counter-attack on a pitch on which no other batsmen had looked comfortable.

"I think when it is tough you want your experienced players to step up," Smith said.

"I've played quite a lot of cricket now. I like to get into those situations and try and be the one to take the team through."

 

Smith raised his bat for yet another half century to further underline his command of the series.
Smith raised his bat for yet another half century to further underline his command of the series.

 

With Matthew Wade playing the support role, Smith set about humiliating England - slicing their plans apart with precision.

"That partnership was really handy for us at that stage," Smith said of the 105-run pairing which lifted Australia from 4-44 into a dominant position.

 

 

"England were really up and about with us four down but a good half an hour of batting and things got a bit easier for us and we were able to form a nice partnership, and hopefully one that will set us up for this game."

Throw in as well that despite Smith's 82, somewhat comically, being his lowest score of the series he still has a realistic chance to match one of Bradman's seemingly unattainable feats - the most runs in a Test series, which he achieved with 974 in the 1930 Ashes.

Through just five innings Smith has 671 runs, meaning should he hit 304 at the Oval next week - remembering he plundered 293 in Manchester - he'll overtake the Don.

More realistic might be for Smith to attain the record for most runs in a series of four of fewer Tests - given he missed the third Test with concussion.

West Indian great Sir Vivian Richards holds that mark currently, with 829 from four Tests against England in 1976.

But with a further 159 runs, it would be Smith's - taking him another step or two up Mt Bradman.