Steven Smith’s best batting friend, Marnus Labuschagne, has warned that the floodgates could open again after Smith hit a century in a Test match for the first time in 18 months.
At the end of the first day in Galle, Smith was still not out with a score of 109. He and Marnus Labuschagne put Australia in charge of the second Test after putting on 134 runs together.
Smith hadn’t hit a hundred since January 2021, but he was back to his old self on Friday with a nearly perfect 212-ball game.
“The boys said that when he came up to the ground this morning, he was in the Smudge headspace and looked locked in,” Labuschagne said.
It was clear. Smith was in charge from the start. He waited for Sri Lanka’s bowlers to throw loose balls, then hit anything full to the cover or long-on boundary.
On one of the few times a ball beat Smith’s bat, the right-hander gave a thumbs-up to Prabath Jayasuriya, who was making his debut, right away. But there were not many times like that.
The vice-captain hit Jayasuriya twice past mid-on for four, which might have been the best two shots of the day. Ten of his 13 fours went down the ground because he was good at getting to where the ball was pitched and was in charge of the game.
Smith had said for the past few months that he wasn’t thinking about the fact that he had his longest test drought since 2013. But his happiness was clear when he brought up his century by hitting Kasun Rajitha through the covers and raising his arms high after hugging teammate Alex Carey.
Marnus Labuschagne sends a warning regarding Steve Smith
“When you have so many abilities as he has, he rarely feels out of form. It’s just that he has set such a high standard for himself that even when it drops a little bit, he still has really high expectations,” Labuschagne, who also hit 104, said.
“He is very hard on himself. For the last eight or nine years, he has set a standard for Australia. He hits the ball well all the time. It’s just a matter of having faith. I think that getting that one today will really open the floodgates, and the next 10 Tests or so could be really big,” he added.
Australia really needed Smith’s runs after he said last month that he missed the pressure of batting on spin wickets. If Smith had gone down early, the tourists would have been in trouble when they got to the wicket at 70 for 2.
Smith’s century put him back on the same score as Joe Root, with 28. During the week, people had told him that the former England captain had briefly passed him.
He now has the same number of hundreds as Michael Clarke. Only Ricky Ponting, Steve Waugh, Matthew Hayden, and Don Bradman have more than hundreds than him.