Man of the day
Australia's Steve Smith picked the perfect time to find some form during the Ashes series.
By Rob Lancaster
Last Updated: 13/12/13 11:10am
Steve Smith was one of those players who had failed so far to make a telling contribution to his side's 2-0 lead (at least with the bat, he did dismiss Ian Bell with a 'full bunger' in the second Test).
At Brisbane he had made 31 in the home side's first innings before hanging his bat out to dry and providing Chris Tremlett with his first wicket of the series. Not content there, he gave the giant Surrey bowler another in the second innings, this time before he'd troubled the scorers.
Life in Adelaide didn't get a lot easier; on a placid, batting paradise in Adelaide he made a slow turner from Monty Panesar look like a ball-of-the-century contender by playing all around it. Never mind it being a case of him going down the Bakerloo while the delivery was on the Jubilee, he wasn't even on the London Underground.
However, a second chance - coming with his team in complete control of the match - began to offer signs of some much-needed form.
While he only made 23 not out towards the end of the third day whilst waiting for a declaration, it was a valuable opportunity to spend some much-needed time in the middle for tougher battles to come.
Sure enough, at the WACA Australia needed Smith to dig in and get them out of a hole. At 106-3 it was hardly crisis time, but the hosts had just lost skipper Clarke. Even at 129-4 there was no desperate air of despair, but opener Warner had departed when well set on 60.
George Bailey came and went quickly too, leaving Smith - he of only one Test hundred - and Brad Haddin as the men charged to launch a recovery mission.
Haddin, in truth, was fortunate to come through the opening skirmishes. Fortune favoured the brave and in that respect the wicketkeeper-batsman was as lucky as he was good.
Smith too got away with a miss-timed pull, but that particular stroke would turn out to be his prime source of runs. England were guilty of bowling too short at him at times, but the right-hander pulled powerfully and productively, often through mid-wicket off the front foot.
Perhaps, though, his most impressive scoring shot was his first. On zero and knowing the match situation, the 24-year-old still had the bravery to take a few steps down the wicket to Graeme Swann and pump him over long-on for six.
As three figures approached Smith showed no real sign of nerves. There was no rush of blood to the head as he displayed at Old Trafford during the summer, when he gave away a certain ton in rather amateurish fashion.
This time he got to the landmark with the pull shot that had served him so well throughout. Before the ball had even reached the boundary he had let out a yell of delight, not surprising considering before he'd only ever made one half-century in first-class cricket at the venue.
A WACA day? No, it was definitely Smith's.