Sir Don Bradman’s 334 against England at Headingley, Leeds in 1930 was the highest Test score ever by an Australian batsman. It remained so for 73 years when Hayden scored 380 at Perth versus Zimbabwe.
Let’s go back to 1998. Mark Taylor scored 334 Not out at Peshawar versus Pakistan to equal the Don’s record. He had a chance to equal it and in fact possibly exceed Brian Lara’s highest test score of 375. The Aussie team voted for him to bat on. However skipper Taylor declared, refusing to pass Bradman’s score.
This Mark Taylor incident shows the reverence Australian Cricketers have for Bradman, who is not only Australia’s best ever but the world’s greatest ever batsman. 29 tons in 52 tests, 6996 runs with an average of 99.94 are stats which indicate only a fraction of how complete and dominating a batsman Bradman was.
The race then is who will end up as Australia’s second best batsman. In recent times, Steve Smith with his astonishing consistency has shown that he has it in him to last the distance.
Before having a look at Smith’s performances, let us have a quick look at some of the other great Australian Batsmen on acceptable parameters such as test runs, number of hundreds and average etc.
The 10000 men
Ricky Ponting has an astronomical 13378 Test runs in his 168 tests with a healthy average of 51.85. Punter had 41 Test 100’s which is the maximum by any Aussie batsman.
Border follows Punter with 11174 runs in his 156 Tests. He has 27 tons and his average is 50.56. Steve Waugh who also played 168 Tests scored 10927 test runs with 32 tons at an average of 51.06.
Number of 100’s.
Punter heads the list with 41 followed by Steve Waugh with 32 and Matthew Hayden with 30. In fact only sachin (51) and Kallis (45) are ahead of Punter.
After Bradman’s 99.94 is the unlikely name of Adam Voges who showed incredible consistency especially at the beginning of his career to end up with an average of 61.87 while scoring 1485 runs in 20 Tests. Smith follows him with 59.66.
Then there are two great batsmen, Greg Chappell and Ponting. While Chappell had an average of 53.86 when he piled up his 7110 runs in 87 Tests, Punter’s average was 51.85.
Let’s now come to Steve Smith. He was dismissed by many as a T20 Player who could bowl leg spin but cemented his place as a pure batsman. He has played 56 Tests and has scored 5370 runs and his average is 59.66. He has as many as 20 centuries in his 56 Tests.
While the above looks good, the good becomes extraordinary when one notes that Smith had less than 1000 runs in his 1st 16 Tests and he had only 2 100’s. Still it was impressive and indicated potential considering his 1st two series were a horror 0-4 loss to India and a 0-3 loss to England in Ashes.
Since then Smith has exploded with 4400 runs and 18 100’s in 40 Tests at an average of almost 71. This certainly is Bradmanesque.
After their 3-0 loss to England, Australia were itching for revenge and got it in style, winning 5-0 with Smith scoring 2 Tons. In a 2-1 series win vs South Africa in South Africa, Smith in the 1st innings of the 1st Test had a big 100 in a 233 run partnership with Shaun Marsh. In the deciding 3rd test he had a crucial 89 and a 36 not out.
In the 2015 Ashes which Australia lost 2-3 , Smith still scored 500 plus runs. Versus India a year earlier, he had scored 769 runs in 4 Tests at an average of 128. He had 4 hundreds and had most runs ever by an Australian in a 4 Test series, surpassing none other than Bradman.
While Smith has phenomenal success in home conditions, he has succeeded everywhere. He has had 3 centuries in a 4 Test tour of India where most English and Aussie batsmen fail. He has scored in Sri Lanka, in South Africa, in New Zealand and in England.
All this shows that Smith is well on his way to becoming the second best Australian Batsman of all time. There are hugely big names ahead of him, the biggest two of which are Ricky Ponting and Greg Chappell. However Smith is just 28, he is captain of all 3 formats. He is incredibly consistent and superbly fit. He has terrific potential.
Smith is destined for bigger things ahead.