Smith’s not the first Steve to leave England in agony…and Root and his bowlers will be praying it doesn’t get as bad as 1989 when it took 585 balls to get Steve Waugh out!
- Steve Waugh had kick-started the 1989 Ashes and averaged 55 from that point
- There is a symbolism to his presence here this summer as an Australian mentor
- Steve Smith threatens to impose himself in similar fashion on this series
- But England’s are hoping Jofra Archer can induce discomfort in Smith at Lord’s
As England’s bowlers desperately try to work out how to dismiss an Australian batsman called Steve in the second Test at Lord’s, which starts on Wednesday, it’s worth remembering that we have been here before.
It is 30 years since Steve Waugh finally announced himself. After his first 42 Test innings had brought him no centuries and a modest average of 30, Waugh kickstarted the 1989 Ashes with unbeaten scores of 177 at Headingley, then 152 and 21 at Lord’s, before he was finally dismissed at Edgbaston for 43.
From the start of that series until the end of his career almost 15 years later, Waugh averaged 55 and scored 32 hundreds.
Steve Smith threatens to impose himself like Steve Waugh on another generation of bowlers
For England, there is a grim symbolism to his presence here this summer as a mentor to the Australians while Steve Smith, who made 144 and 142 in the first Test at Edgbaston, threatens to impose himself in similar fashion on another generation of bowlers.
‘I’m sure the comparison was made with Bradman back then, as it is now,’ says Angus Fraser, who in 1989 ended Waugh’s undefeated sequence of 393 runs when he bowled him on the second morning of the third Test. It was the 585th ball Waugh had faced in the series.
‘Data was non-existent back then,’ says Fraser, who was making his Test debut. ‘There was no bowling coach, so it was left to Micky Stewart, our coach, to make a few observations.
‘Maybe it was arrogant of me, but I wasn’t really fearful of bowling to Waugh because he wasn’t the kind of bloke who took a game away from you. Dean Jones was more likely to impose himself.’
Still, by the time Fraser proved Waugh was human after all, a toll had been exacted on England’s bowlers. Derek Pringle and Phil DeFreitas were dropped after Headingley, while Phil Newport and Neil Foster were injured. The summer in which the selectors picked 29 players across six Ashes Tests was well under way.
Australia’s Steve Waugh cracks a four in the fourth Test of the 2002 Ashes series
‘It felt as if you were playing for your place every game,’ says DeFreitas.
‘I’d played against Steve Waugh a few times at the start of his career and he was a tough opponent. He worked hard and didn’t give you much at all. If there was a bad ball, he put you away. If you bowled him a good one, he’d put it to the back of his mind and move on. In that respect, he was similar to Steve Smith.’
DeFreitas was left out after match figures of three for 216, and earned a less than glowing review from David Gower, his captain. ‘Foster, Pringle and DeFreitas bowled poorly,’ Gower later wrote, ‘and although I ran around attempting to offer words of quiet encouragement, a captain is pretty well rendered impotent when every single one of his bowlers is off form.’
Pringle does not dispute that. ‘I bowled s***,’ he says. ‘It was probably my worst performance for England, partly because I was concentrating on a no-ball problem rather than the bloke at the other end.
‘I kept serving up leg-stump half-volleys, which Waugh dealt with, or bowled short and wide outside off — and he had a strong cut shot. Once he was in, he had a good cover drive. He didn’t hook much. The West Indian bowlers thought he was frightened.’
Joe Root’s team are hoping the selection of Jofra Archer for Lord’s can induce discomfort in Smith — although Fraser believes the current England team are in danger of being lured away from what they do best.
‘I always felt that if you hit a good length hard, on or just outside off stump, at around 85mph, and the ball does something, a batsman is going to struggle,’ he says. ‘So why go away from doing that?
Joe Root’s team are hoping the selection of Jofra Archer can induce discomfort in Smith
‘Curtly Ambrose was asked on the radio the other day about bowling to Smith, and he said it was his job to make the batsman worry about him, not the other way round. Be in charge of that 22-yard piece of turf.
‘It’s hard enough bowling one type of delivery throughout your career but if you start aiming for, say, leg-stump yorkers, which aren’t programmed into you like your stock ball, you become more vulnerable as a bowler.
‘You’re being taken to a place where you’re less comfortable and you end up playing the batsman’s game.’
In 1989, as in 2019, England got into a pickle with their choice of ball. This summer, some gentle lobbying from Stuart Broad and Co encouraged director of cricket Ashley Giles to commission a fresh batch of the 2018 Dukes, which proved lively during last summer’s 4-1 Test win against India.
Broad and Co asked director of cricket Ashley Giles to commission a batch of the 2018 Dukes
Yet at Edgbaston, Smith faced none of the lateral movement that occasionally troubled him during the 2015 Ashes, which England won 3-2.
Thirty years ago the problem was even more pronounced. Gower and his opposite number Allan Border tossed for which brand of ball to use — the Readers, favoured by England, or the Dukes, which in those days was feared less by Australian batsmen than it is now.
Pringle believes Gower insisted on getting all six tosses out of the way before the first Test at Headingley — and lost the first five, leaving a relieved Border to plump for the Dukes. In his autobiography, however, Waugh claims Gower simply allowed Australia to use the Dukes until the fourth Test, by which time England were already 2-0 down.
As for Gower, he can’t remember — although such was Waugh’s determination that it might not have made much difference anyway.
Smith, whose past 10 Ashes innings have produced 1,116 runs and six hundreds, may now be inducing the same sense of helplessness.
‘I’d try to get him on a really green seamer,’ says DeFreitas. ‘If you get him in English-type conditions, you’ve got a chance. The only problem is, they’ve got the bowlers who would enjoy those conditions too.’
If history repeats itself at Lord’s this week, England really will be in trouble.
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