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Well, whether you like him or not, we should all be grateful for Steve Smith. In an innings of great character and skill at Edgbaston, he has reminded us why Test cricket is the finest form of the game. For a long time, while wickets were tumbling around him, he kept his head and batted slowly, aware that if he got out, Australia would be dismissed for a very low score. His strike-rate for much of his innings was around or even below 40 runs per hundred balls, miserable by the standards of our dashing moderns. But he trusted that he would eventually find a partner able to stick with him, and this trust was justified when that admirable cricketer Peter Siddle joined him. Then, accelerating gradually, Smith went to his twenty-fourth Test hundred, his ninth against England and, in doing so, dragged Australia out of a deep hole and put them back in the match, even on top. His was a remarkable innings in which he displayed a steely nerve, fine judgement and considerable skill.
Nobody is going to describe Smith as an elegant batsman – though, as he showed in the latter part of his innings, he can be a mighty destructive one. He offers little in the way of aesthetic pleasure. Nor is he what used to be called correct.