MELBOURNE, (Reuters) – From bashing big scores to firing back a few choice words at sledging opponents, the captaincy is fitting Australia’s Steven Smith well, according to opening batsman Chris Rogers.
Smith compiled a watchful half-century to see Australia to stumps at 259-5 on day one of the third test against India on Friday, continuing a stellar run of form for the baby-faced batsman nicknamed ‘Smudge’.
Unbeaten twice in the series-opening test in Adelaide with scores of 162 and 52, Smith struck a match-winning 133 in Brisbane standing in for injured captain Michael Clarke to drive Australia to a 2-0 series lead.
Unbeaten on 72 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, the 25-year-old is in the box seat to help Australia seal the four-match series a game early.
“There’s definitely an echelon of batsmen at the moment who seem to be above and beyond,” Rogers, who scored 57 for his third successive half-century of the series, told reporters.
“Davey (Warner) to a certain extent and now Smudger (Smith).
“It’s phenomenal to watch and great to be a part of. (Smith) is just growing day by day and it’s scary to think how good he can be.
“Someone threw a ball back at him today and he had the confidence to say a few words back at him so it looks as if he knows he belongs and he knows he’s one of the better players in the world at the moment.”
Though India captured pairs of wickets at the start of both the second and third sessions, Smith was in full control, lifting the tempo with the old ball and defending stoutly with wicketkeeper Brad Haddin (23 not out) as the tourists’ pacemen pushed hard with the new ball late on.
Rogers has enjoyed his return to form, but was disappointed to be dismissed in the 50s for a third successive time.
His contributions have been timely, however, given opener David Warner’s form has tailed off after his back-to-back centuries in the first Adelaide test.
“I know it probably doesn’t seem like it but there are times it can be a little bit intimidating batting with Davey as well,” said Rogers of Warner, who was out for a duck.
“He scores so quickly that you can look up and think, ‘I’m not scoring quick enough, I’m not being aggressive enough’.
“So I think at times I’ve probably got out trying to force it a little bit up the other end from Davey. Maybe it helps me just calm down a little bit after he gets out.”