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Aus vs WI, 2nd T20I, 2022-23

Steven Smith knows he has to show his intent now that he’s lost the role of ‘Mr Fix it’.

“Just having that more attacking mentality instead of when I was in such a role,” Smith said on Thursday. “I was probably in a more defensive frame of mind and almost just trying to get through without taking up the game as much.”

The problem is he doesn’t show it. And he’s running out of time for the World Cup as Tim David showed once again why he just can’t be left out of Australia’s best side with a brilliant 42 out of 20 in Australia’s win over the West Indies in the Gabba that won the World Cup. series sealed 2-0 .

Friday was the perfect opportunity for Smith. Back on the team in the absence of the equipped Mitchell Marsh, he walked away at number 4 as Australia continued to tinker with their lineup.

But he led off with four hits in nine balls. It wasn’t just that he couldn’t score. He barely played a shot in anger as he tried to find some feeling on a sticky surface. In the meantime, David Warner fell for a scintillating 75 out of 41 after four consecutive dot balls down the other side in the 11th.

Eight balls later, Glenn Maxwell was exhausted trying to pinch a single that was arguably not there to try and strike again as Smith continued to fight for timing.

Smith wasn’t the only one struggling. Aaron Finch made a torturous 15 out of 19 with a line that has shifted to number 3 after hitting number 4 on Wednesday.

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But Finch is the captain and looks likely to open in the World Cup unless Cameron Green comes into the squad through injury.

Despite all of Finch’s struggles over the past 12 months, his success rate of 121.17 over that period looks electric compared to Smith’s 112.77. Finch has reached 20 in more than half of his turns in that time. Smith has done it in just a third of his.

Even in Smith’s best innings, he struggled to make up for a slow start. In Pallekele, against Sri Lanka, he was 15 out of 17 before hitting his first mark and finishing with 37 not out of 27. In Mohali last month against India, Smith was 9 out of 8 while Green on the other side batted with 200. Smith finished with 35 out of 24 and hit at 145.83 when the two teams’ combined pass rate was well over 170.

Unlike David, Smith cannot close the gap with brute force and he openly admits it.

“Obviously I’m not as strong and powerful as some of the other guys, but some wickets are just being smart and hitting the ball and also timing the ball really well,” Smith said the day before the Gabba match.

But he didn’t succeed. Warner’s innings were full of quality stroke play rather than brute force. He mixed sharp timing with an excellent run between the wickets. Smith at his best can do that. But he has not been able to instill fear among the opposition bowlers in T20 cricket as he does in Test and 50-over cricket.

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David’s breathtaking blow is said to have sparked fear among the opponents of the World Cup in Australia, as it has in franchise cricket around the world. Yannic Cariah and Obed McCoy felt the full force as David hit three sixes with a combination of easy swings and brute force. Warner was in awe of David’s abilities.

“Now that he’s on our team and our line-up, it’s a godsend,” Warner said after the game. “He’s an incredible player. He’s got some serious strength, so it boosts our middle class, and to play like that and with his height and strength it suits us, that’s for sure.

“Where does he fit in the lineup now and what’s his role? I think coming out and playing that part perfectly there, when it was a tough wicket to start with, really opening our eyes to okay, how can we now make use of that?

“You don’t get these kind of players every day. So it will be good for us to move forward and hopefully there will be a place there too, because the selectors have a headache now I think.”

While conventional thinking might view David’s rise as a threat to Marcus Stoinis, as David has taken the number 6 position in the sequence and has shown exceptional skill and adaptability in playing that role, the reality is that David and Stoinis can’t be the same as given David doesn’t bowl. Australia can’t have four batters in their top six not bowling if Marsh’s bowling fitness is still not guaranteed. Stoinis will return to England in Perth on Sunday and will be fit and required to bowl.

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Smith has now become vulnerable to David the Goliath. The Australian hierarchy was confident that Smith would do well in T20 cricket this year. Confident that the best problem solver on the team would solve his attack speed problem with more reps in the middle order.

He now seems redundant in a team looking to defend their title.

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