Against Sri Lanka in Brisbane last week, Smith batted without offering up anything that resembled a chance, adding an unbeaten 53 and blazing away as if it was illegal for him to be dismissed. At Manuka Oval against Pakistan on Tuesday night, Smith dialled it up again, this time ending on 80 not out as he raced to his highest T20 score in more than four years.
Smith has the luxury of making such late decisions that bowling to him in this nick is becoming a form of torture. Too short and he wields the bat like a light saber and flashes it away through the covers.
Too full and he will crunch it on either side of the wicket he chooses. At Manuka, he shuffled across to his off stump, then speared a ball back through midwicket with absolute disdain and complete confidence in his ability to adapt should the bowler have caught onto his plan.
Later in the game, he watched a bumper that was soaring above his head and tickled it with the bat over the head of the keeper and to the fence. He had so long to make the decision it looked like a scene from The Matrix.
At one point in his career, Smith didn’t appear to fit the requirements of a T20 bat. He can’t clear the pickets like Chris Lynn or D’Arcy Short or bludgeon bowlers like David Warner, another who has been in blistering T20 form this year.
But the game has evolved to accommodate players with Smith’s craftiness and he has responded with a series of knocks that suggest he’s motivated to become one of the best players in the game ahead of the World Cup.
Australia coach Justin Langer believes Smith can climb to the top and become a world-leader in every version of the game. He leads Virat Kohli at the top of the Test rankings, although he doesn’t even feature in the top 100 of the T20 rankings given his return to the side last month was his first outing for Australia in more than three years.
“Hopefully he is ranked No.1 in all three forms,” Langer said. “I’m sure he will be aspiring to do that. Hopefully all our players are aspiring to it as well.
“(Tuesday) night was just sublime. He plays shots where you just shake your head. You’re sitting on the bench with the boys and they’re just looking at me going: ‘how does he do that?’
“It’s got me buggered, I don’t know. He is getting better and better which is great for Australian cricket.”