Steve Smith followed back-to-back BBL hundreds for the Sydney Sixers with his fastest ever T20 half-century in Hobart on Monday night.
Having played just four games, the Aussie batting star is easily his team’s leading run-scorer, having notched 328 runs at an average of 105.
Smith has also hit a team-high 24 sixes in those four imperious outings, nearly four times the next best effort, which belongs to James Vince, who cleared the boundary seven times in his short stint.
It is his batting which has elevated Smith in the national T20 conversation after watching most of Australia’s unsuccessful World Cup defence last November from the bench.
Taking retired captain Aaron Finch’s place at the top of the order when Australia plays its next T20 international in August now seems the must-do move for national selection boss George Bailey.
Opening is where Smith says he feels the most freedom to hit the ball to “unique” parts of the ground most batters can’t reach.
Smith isn’t, however, strutting around the Big Bash trying to make a statement about his World Cup omission, or even whether he should replace Finch.
He’s just having fun.
“I’m just enjoying playing at the moment; I enjoy batting up the top, it’s been good fun,” Smith said after smashing 66 from 33 balls as the Sydney Sixers belted the Hobart Hurricanes on Monday night.
“I don’t think we have any T20 internationals for some time, we’ll wait and see where things land, but it’s been good fun for the time being.”
Smith’s entry into the BBL this season came after discussions with Cricket Australia for a top-up deal, one many felt he was owed after being denied the chance to play at the back end of last season because of bureaucratic red tape.
The worth of his presence has been telling for not just his team, but the BBL tournament, with crowds up as fans rush to witness a superstar at the peak of his powers.
His first century for the Sixers was a first in T20 cricket since 2017, and his run gathering would suggest he’s never batted better.
But is it the best he’s batted in the shortest form of the game?
“I’m not sure. It’s a different role being up the top; it’s a completely different place to bat, but it’s a place I think that suits me,” he said.
“I think I hit unique parts of the ground when there’s two out. I’m able to get in to it and then once the fielders go out, I want to score so I can keep playing.
“Most players like batting up the top and I’ve been given this opportunity and it’s been good fun.”
Smith enjoying what he does best is an ominous sign for Saturday’s qualifying final showdown with the Perth Scorchers, his final match before heading to India.
He also declared the back spasms which impacted his previous innings were on the mend, and he could be freed up even more to go berserk in Perth.
“Before the last game I was quite sore, then today I was a bit better … fingers crossed it just keeps getting better and better,” he said.
“It was just some disc issues and it should all be fine.
“I’m feeling really good. It’s been good fun batting up the top, having the freedom to just go out and play, which is how I want to play and set the team up … I’ve enjoyed it.”