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Smith puts Australia on course to a 2-0 whitewash against Windies

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Last updated on 27 Jan 2024 | 12:18 PM
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Smith puts Australia on course to a 2-0 whitewash against Windies

At 60/2, chasing 216, Australia are in the best possible position to win the series 2-0 after day three's play at Gabba

Kirk McKenzie continues to raise the bar

Kirk McKenzie has only played a handful of Tests, but in that, he’s already seen troubled times right in front of him. In the first Test of the two-match series in Australia, McKenzie walked out with the visitors in a lot of trouble. Had it been just trouble, it is understandable; it was against some of the best quicks in world cricket, and McKenzie put his hand up with a solid half-century. 

Also Read: West Indies falter, but Kirk McKenzie stands tall amidst the chaos

In the second innings of the Adelaide Test as well, the left-handed batter scored 26. It continued at the Gabba in the first innings, where McKenzie was quite confident in his stroke-filled 21, where he hit three fours and a six, striking at 84. At 13/1, the pressure was on the left-hander to put on a show against Australia. 

He picked right up from where he left, with another intent-filled 41, where he hit six boundaries. While the Windies might lose this Test series, McKenzie’s knocks are in the right direction. 

Cameron Green asked all the right questions

Five overs, two maidens, 13 runs, two one wicket

Cameron Green was absolutely all over the West Indies’ batting unit in the first session on the third day’s play here at the Gabba. This is despite the presence of Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc in the lineup. 

Green was introduced into the attack in the 16th over of the second innings on a bright and sunny day here at the Gabba. Ideally, no bowler would want to bowl in these conditions, but the choice wasn’t in the hands of the lanky all-rounder; it was with the Australian skipper Cummins. 

From the word go, Green drew the batters out of their crease with an immaculate line and length. Also, Australia was well aware of the conditions in play and mixed the slower balls with great efficiency, with 126.9 kmph being his slowest ball. 

In his first spell, the lanky pacer drew 27.7% false shots, including the wicket of Kraigg Brathwaite, with the Windies skipper being sucked into a shot early. It wasn’t just his first spell, even in his second spell, Green looked like the most threatening of all Australian bowlers out at the Gabba. 

Green drew a false shot % of 41.6, where he almost got the wicket of Alick Athanaze if not for the dropped catch from Steve Smith. 

Australia and the sustained pressure post-dinner

At 183/6, West Indies returned from the dinner session with some confidence that they could add 30-40 more runs and put the hosts in a lot of trouble. But.

Nathan Lyon and Josh Hazlewood ensured that there was not a single easy run on offer. If Lyon was threatening from one end with some sharp turn, Hazlewood's consistency became quite a tough task. 

Hazlewood set up Justin Greaves with some street-smart bowling. First, the Australian pacer bowled it a little fuller to draw the right-hander. Next, he changed his line but kept the length the same, and then there was the subtle change that resulted in Greaves edging the ball to the wicketkeeper. 

If that wasn’t enough, Lyon’s big spinning delivery spun 6.5 degrees into the right-handed Kemar Roach, trapping him right in front of the stumps. During the entire session, Australian bowlers only conceded ten runs, having bowled 12 overs, picking up three wickets. It was as tough as it could get for batters. 

Steve Smith with a change in technique

Steve Smith, as an opener, hasn’t got off to the best start possible. While the slightly shorter and wide delivery was hurting him at No.4, a nip-backer removed him from the crease in the first Test in Adelaide. All kinds of assumptions were already made when the right-hander was trapped right in front of the stumps in the first innings of the second Test here at the Gabba. 

Courtesy: Hotstar

Over the last year, Smith has been undone multiple times in front of the stumps, with the ball moving in late. It was a kryptonite to Smith, and it was well noted by the Windies pacers. But then come the run-chase, the Australian batter has totally changed his technique. 

In comparison to the first innings of the second Test, Smith was far more stable while moving during the second innings, where there was an evident change in his technique. Not just that, in the first innings, due to the excessive late movement, the right-hander was unaware of the stumps, which resulted in him getting trapped in front. 

You could see a marginal change in the shuffle, with Smith more stable as the ball reaches him. It was one of the reasons behind the right-hander having a better outing on Saturday (January 27)

Marnus Labuschagne, where your form at? 

July 19, 2023, was the last time Marnus Labuschagne brought up a three-figure score in Tests. It was against England in Manchester. 

But since then, Labuschange has never brought up a three-figure score. In fact, it is the first summer since his return back in 2019 when the right-handed batter has gone a summer without bringing up a century. There was a pattern of dismissal.

Eight of 17 Labuschagne dismissals have been in the channel just outside off-stump, showing how vulnerable the right-hander has been in the corridor of uncertainty. In just this Australian summer, he’s been undone thrice in that spot, showing the bowlers where to bowl. 

With Smith moving up the order, the onus will be on Labuschagne to take control of the middle-order, which consists of Cameron Green, who is only easing into his role at No.4. 

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