Smith: Aus­tralia are on the up

Vic­tory over Pak­istan will pro­vide ‘be­lief’

The National - News - Sport - - LEADING OFF -

It can give you that be­lief, to know you’re never out of the game or you can pull a win out of your hat from nowhere Steve Smith Aus­tralia cap­tain

Aus­tralia cap­tain Steve Smith said the un­likely vic­tory over Pak­istan in the sec­ond Test yes­ter­day can gal­vanise his team as they brace for stiffer chal­lenges against In­dia at the end of the home sum­mer.

With rain re­duc­ing the Test to a fi­nal day shoot-out, Aus­tralia ran through Pak­istan for 163 in­side 54 overs to close out an in­nings and 18-run win in the fi­nal ses­sion at the Mel­bourne Cricket Ground.

The vic­tory gave Aus­tralia an unas­sail­able 2-0 se­ries lead. The third Test is in Syd­ney next week, and Aus­tralia will en­ter it with a valu­able shot of con­fi­dence for a team in tran­si­tion.

Aus­tralia were ef­fec­tively re­booted after be­ing thrashed by South Africa in Ho­bart, a loss which sur­ren­dered the Test se­ries to the Proteas, but have won three matches in a row since.

“It can give you that be­lief, to know you’re never out of the game or you can pull a win out of your hat from nowhere,” Smith said.

“It was quite re­mark­able the way we were able to do that to­day. Ev­ery­thing went to plan – it was one of those days.

“Hope­fully the guys can take a lot of con­fi­dence out of the way they’ve played this week.” Smith was named man of the match for smash­ing an un­beaten 163 be­fore declar­ing Aus­tralia’s first in­nings at a mam­moth 624 for eight just be­fore lunch.

Pace­man Mitchell Starc was un­lucky not to re­ceive the award, hav­ing blasted 84 with the bat in the morn­ing, in­clud­ing a record seven sixes at the MCG, and re­turned fig­ures of four for 36 to close out the win.

Smith paid trib­ute to the dom­i­nant left-armer but was also pleased for spin­ner Nathan Lyon, who re­turned to form with a three-wicket spell in the mid­dle ses­sion that broke open Pak­istan’s sec­ond in­nings.

From there, Smith with­drew the spin­ner after tea and had Starc and pace­men Josh Ha­zle­wood and Jack­son Bird rat­tle through the last five wick­ets as the ball re­versed.

Smith received plenty of flak for his cap­taincy in the 39-run se­ries-open­ing win in Bris­bane.

He de­clined to make Pak­istan fol­low on and was crit­i­cised roundly for his ten­ta­tive field set­tings on the fi­nal day as the tourists put a fourth in­nings to­tal of 450 on the board, a record in Aus­tralia, to give the home side a huge scare.

But there was lit­tle to fault in Mel­bourne, where Smith’s 17th test ton se­cured a 181-run first in­nings lead to pres­sure Pak­istan’s bats­men, while al­lowed his bowlers to smash through for vic­tory.

“We’re still a work in progress, we’re a young team and I’m proud of the boys,” he said. “It was phe­nom­e­nal the way we could turn things around.

“But we want a clean sweep in Syd­ney and we need to con­tinue to im­prove in ev­ery as­pect.”

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