Cricket Expert & Columnist
The Ashes: Steven Smith has locked in Australia spot, says Athers
Steven Smith can look forward to a long spell in the Australia line-up after his first Test ton, says Athers.
Last Updated: 23/08/13 7:50am
Smith, 24, racked up three figures for the first time in Tests, remaining unbeaten on 138 as the Baggy Greens declared their first innings on 492-9 towards the end of a day which, due to rain, began at 2.30pm.
Atherton was impressed by the Sydney-born player - who reached his century by hitting Jonathan Trott's medium pace for six - and feels he could be set for a long stint in his country's line-up.
"The wait was worth it for Smith as he got his first Ashes hundred after having more bad days against England than good," former England captain Atherton told Sky Sports Ashes.
"It was an impressive, fluid innings and you get the feeling that he has planted himself in that middle-order and got himself ahead of Phil Hughes and Usman Khawaja.
"He is an odd player because he is fidgety and has got a funny technique, but at the point of impact he looks like he's got a lot of time and he has got a lot of nice shots - he plays a lovely pull shot with a full extension of the arm.
"He is a young player who is clearly improving and when a side is going through transition - Australia are as they are not sure about some players, like Khawaja and Hughes - you want a tick in the box, and they can do that to Smith now and know he's there to stay."
Atherton also praised Australia's aggression with the bat, which ensured that, following their declaration, they were able to bowl 17.3 overs of pace at England openers Alastair Cook (17 not out) and Joe Root (13 not out) before stumps.
The ex-Lancashire man was less enthused by the hosts' "defensive" mindset, but he did stick up for England's decision to pick uncapped Simon Kerrigan and Chris Woakes for the clash, despite the move being questioned by his Sky Sports colleague Nasser Hussain after day one.
"We thought Australia might get 500 and then declare and get in England in for 10 overs, but they pushed on ahead of that and managed to get England in for a few more than 10," said the Times writer after seeing Cook's charges reach 32-0 at the close.
"England were very defensive in the field and it was quite humiliating to see nine fielders on the boundary as there were for much of the afternoon - though that reflects how well Australia played and how they forced England to become defensive."
"England have received a lot of criticism with people saying they picked this team out of hubris, but they only left [Surrey quick] Chris Tremlett out because the groundsman shaved the pitch late in the day and they thought it was going to spin [for Kerrigan].
"I think they regret the decision now but I think it was made for the right reasons."