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Smith drought-breaker can open floodgates



Steve Smith’s closest batting ally has warned the floodgates could open again after the batting maestro broke his 18-month Test century drought against Sri Lanka.

Smith went to stumps not out on 109 at the end of day one in Galle, helping put Australia in control of the second Test after a 134-run stand with Marnus Labuschagne.

Without a century since January 2021, Smith was back to his classic best on Friday in a near faultless 212-ball display.

“The boys said this morning when he rocked up to the ground, he was in the Smudge headspace and he looked locked in,” Labuschagne said.

It showed.

In control from the outset, Smith waited on loose balls from Sri Lanka’s bowlers as he punished anything full and hit it to the cover or long-on boundary.

On one of the few occasions a ball beat Smith’s bat, the right-hander gave an immediate thumbs-up down the wicket to debutant Prabath Jayasuriya.

But moments like that were few and far between.

The vice-captain produced arguably the best two shots of the day, twice punching Jayasuriya past mid-on for four.

Ten of his 13 boundaries came down the ground, as he got to the pitch of the ball well and controlled the game.

Smith had maintained in recent months that his longest drought since his first Test ton in 2013 had not been playing on his mind.

But the joy was evident to see when he brought up his century, driving Kasun Rajitha through the covers and raising his arms aloft after hugging teammate Alex Carey.

“With someone of his calibre, he almost never feels like he’s out of form.” Labuschagne, who also hit 104, said. 

“It’s just for him the standard he’s set is so high that when it drops a little bit, his expectations are still at that really high level. 

“He’s a very harsh critic on himself, having set a standard for Australia for the last eight or nine years.

“He’s always still hitting the ball well. It’s just confidence thing. 

“Getting that one today, I think is really going to open up the floodgates and we could have a really big next 10 Tests or so in the next year.”

After admitting he had missed the pressure of batting on spinning wickets last month, Smith’s runs were desperately needed by Australia.

Brought to the wicket at 2-70, the tourists would have found themselves in trouble if Smith hard fallen early.

But by stumps, they were on top at 5-298.

Smith’s century brought him back level with Joe Root on 28, after it had been pointed out to him during the week the former England captain had briefly overtaken him.

He is also now level with Michael Clarke for the fifth most tons in Australia’s history, with only Ricky Ponting, Steve Waugh, Matthew Hayden and Don Bradman ahead of him.



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