Mission possible: is this how you get Steve Smith out?

Mission possible: is this how you get Steve Smith out?
Photograph: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

1) Left-arm spin

Jack Leach might have played at Lord’s anyway, given Moeen Ali’s loss of confidence, but a stat doing the rounds during the first Test at Edgbaston certainly helped his cause. Steve Smith has a Test average of 35 against orthodox left-arm spin; against any other type of bowling he averages 70. The stat needs to be qualified – he struggled against the great Sri Lankan Rangana Herath on some viciously turning pitches – but equally it cannot be ignored. And the disparity is becoming more pronounced: CricViz stats show that, since May 2016, Smith averages 22 against left-arm spin and 96 against the rest.

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2. Disrupt his rhythm

Smith is such an eccentric, fastidious batsman that many have advocated trying to rip him out of his bubble. There have been many suggestions about how to do this, including bowling the ball earlier than expected, putting a man in his eyeline just off the cut strip or picking a fight with him. The most popular idea is to use more slower balls, particularly early in his innings, in an attempt to disrupt his rhythm.

3) Movement away from the bat

Smith was the top-scorer on either side in the last Ashes series to be played in England – yet he made four consecutive single-figure scores at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge. It is no coincidence that those were the pitches that offered the most seam movement. Smith is most susceptible to the ball moving away from the bat, especially early in his innings, and he was caught in the cordon in all four of these innings. England’s seamers would love to challenge Smith on the green, green grass of home.


Smith’s Test average v each type of bowler (career)

Right arm seam 67.05

Left arm seam 65.28

Off spin 94.07

Leg spin 48.77

Left arm orthodox spin 34.90

Left arm unorthodox spin 119.00


Smith’s Test average v each type of bowler (since May 2016)

Right arm seam 85.07

Left arm seam 227.00

Off spin 104.80

Leg spin 82.00

Left arm orthodox spin 21.73

Left arm unorthodox spin 119.00

Stats from CricViz

4) Patience

On Sky Sports on Wednesday morning Shane Warne suggested a two-part plan for Smith. The first was to have a tight leg-side field to keep him on strike, with a few early rib-ticklers to stop him moving across his stumps. Then, once Smith is anchored to middle and leg, bowl a series of fullish deliveries in the corridor of uncertainty – which for Smith is slightly wider than with other batsman. In Tests in England, Smith averages 28.2 against deliveries on a fifth/sixth-stump line. Anywhere else and he averages over 60.

5) Jofra Archer

There is more expectation on Jofra Archer than any England Test debutant since Graeme Hick in 1991 and he will surely be straight into the attack when Smith comes to the crease. We should not expect miracles, especially as Smith averages 92 against deliveries over 87mph (140kph). But Archer has a unique style – he gets very close to the stumps, has a wicked bouncer that comes from nowhere and the discipline to plug away outside off stump if England go for the Warne plan. Whoever comes out on top, his battle with Smith should be unmissable for the Lord’s crowd.

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