Steve Smith got off to his slowest start ever in a Test match as he took 39 balls to open his account during the Sydney Test against New Zealand. (Photo Credit: Getty Images)
Steve Smith has endured an uncharacteristically inconsistent summer. After a poor show against Pakistan, Smith has struggled to reach the stratospheric heights of the Ashes by managing just 43 and 16 in the Perth Pink Ball Test and 85 and 7 during the Boxing Day Test in Melbourne against New Zealand. Heading into the Sydney Test, Australia were in the driver's seat after a good start provided by David Warner and Joe Burns. However, when Warner fell for 45, in stepped Steve Smith and he started off the New Year in a unique way. Smith withstood a bouncer barrage from Neil Wagner, the bowler who has dismissed him in all four innings so far. He then kept out Colin de Grandhomme and defended cautiously against legspinner Todd Astle.
After 45 minutes and 38 balls later, Steve Smith had still not gotten off the mark and there were questions raised on whether this was the same batsman who had dominated England. However, on the 39th ball, Smith tucked a short ball to square leg and set off for a quick single. On achieving the single, the Sydney crowd erupted and gave Smith a standing ovation. The batsman smiled and acknowledged the applause of the crowd. This was the longest Smith had taken to get off the mark in Test cricket and it was the longest any Australia batsmen had taken to get off the mark in a match for nearly 20 years.
Having opened up his account, Smith gained in confidence and he got going with a boundary off Will Sommerville. He tackled Astle and Sommerville brilliantly and rotated the strike on a regular basis and he notched up his 29th fifty with a push to point of de Grandhomme. However, he soon perished to de Grandhomme for 63 as he poked at a good length away swinger to be caught at first slip.
The reaction of the Sydney crowd to Smith was very similar to how they reacted when Rahul Dravid took time to score a run during the Test in 2008. Dravid was taking longer than usual to get off the mark. The crowd was getting agitated and kept on reminding him that he was still on zero. This went on for 39 deliveries. Then off the 40th ball, he took a run! Yes it was a single and finally Dravid was on his way. The spectators stood up and applauded but Dravid responded in a perfect way by raising the bat and smiling.
Marnus Labuschagne continued his great run as he became the first batsman to score a century in the new decade as Australia were in the driver's seat against a New Zealand side that has been ravaged by injury. Kane Williamson was ruled out of the Test match due to flu and Tom Latham was made the captain. There was no Mitchell Santner either and Tim Southee was rested as Mark Henry, William Sommerville and Todd Astle were included in the side along with Glenn Phillips.