Steve Smith: Rising from The Ashes
Ben Stokes watches on as Steve Smith scores yet more runs (Photo: Getty Images)

Steve Smith: Rising from The Ashes

18 months after THAT ball tampering incident, Steve Smith returned to transform the Australian Test fortunes on English soil in the most challenging of circumstances.

chris-lincoln
Chris Lincoln

An outcast; a deceiver; a cheat.

On 28th March 2018, Steve Smith found his career in the balance after overseeing a ball tampering scandal involving Cameron Bancroft and then vice-captain David Warner.

Rock bottom. Disgraced. Ruined.

Yet 18 months on, Smith's remarkable return to prominence has seen him even earn the respect of his nation's greatest rivals, coinciding with a ranking of number one Test batsman, after leading Australia to their first retrieval of the famous urn in England since 2001.

Reigniting

The personal rise from the depths of despair to heroic status is almost symmetrical with that of Ben Stokes.

Again the 28th of the month, this time in September 2017, Stokes was dropped from the England squad after video footage appeared to show him throwing punches outside a Bristol nightclub.

Whilst Stokes eventually escaped the charges, the all-rounder missed the 2017-18 Ashes series where Smith, ironically, was the Player of the Series after scoring 687 runs in a 4-0 drubbing.

The irony will also be not lost on Alex Hales, the other man involved in THAT Stokes incident, who starred as Nottinghamshire made Twenty20 Finals day on Thursday...just over a week after Stokes had his Ashes moment.

Continuing to flicker

Yet, whilst Stokes glimmers on and off - let's not forget his heroics in the World Cup Final - Smith has been a consistent shining light even when all those around him have been trying to cut the circuit.

The former Aussie captain had a taste of what was to come during the World Cup - there was going to be no warm welcome to England. However, Australia's number four has been relatively quiet throughout the tour, letting his bat and flamboyant footwork do the talking. 

An approach not too dissimilar to someone trying to swat a fly after a few beverages in the main terraces, Smith bamboozles with his busy nature at the crease. But it worked.

Hot form

Smith has scored almost double the amount of runs that nearly every player from either side has individually contributed in this Ashes series - despite missing one game through concussion. The only player he has not doubled? Stokes.

After ensuring Australia completed their last home series without losing a game 20 months ago, Smith has played a prominent role in securing the outcome of the destination of the urn on foreign soil, scoring 671 runs, almost exactly the same as the 2017-18 campaign. But with one game still to play.

Yet, for all of his high scores throughout the series, there was one decisive moment that seemed to transform the views of the English public. Well some at least.

Embed from Getty Images

Jeers to cheers (of sorts)

When Jofra Archer pinpointed the head of Smith with sheer pace, the Aussie superstar was left concussed and, despite returning later in the innings, was to miss the Third Test - the only Ashes match Australia have lost to England since August 2015.

Smith was declared fit for this, the Fourth Test, swiping a cheeky dig at Archer, claiming he is yet to get him out. And when the 'freak of nature' scored a double century in the first innings to practically put the contest beyond doubt, he departed to rich applause rather than rapturous jeers. His class finally outweighing his previous misdemeanours.

Archer, for the first time, looked fatigued and out of sorts. Mind games won.

The difference

The similarities between Stokes and Smith continued over the last fortnight - both producing critical batting performances with their backs against the wall.

Smith arrived at 44-4, with the possibility of another English comeback, whilst Stokes transformed the Third Test when his nation were over 200 runs behind the target.

Both players made returning from the depths of despair look easy. It isn't. Just ask David Warner.

However, whilst Smith has produced century after century, Stokes has been unable to build upon his foundation of furore. Scores of 26 and 1 have flattered to deceive, the former ironically snaffled by Smith himself at slip.

If only...

Many will still not be able to forgive Smith but he has served his time.

A genius with the bat and an influence in the field, Steve Smith has produced arguably one of the greatest personal comebacks in Ashes history.

How high his stock could be if it weren't for a piece of sandpaper...

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