Full flight … Steve Smith dives to make his ground as Jonathan Trott fails to gather the ball during the first one-day international at Lord’s, which England won.LONDON: All-rounder Steve Smith, who earned in the vicinity of $1 million as one of Australia’s highest paid players last year, is now being made to sing for his supper.
And as Australia enters the second of the five-match one-day international series against England at the Oval today, the 23-year-old New South Welshman is under pressure, just as he has been given another chance, to retain his place in the team that could help him regain the Cricket Australia contract he was stripped of last month.
Smith was previously ranked sixth on the country’s salary chart but under the new regime, headed by chairman of selectors John Inverarity, the all-rounder was left out of the reduced list of 17 contracted players for 2012-13.
Under the complex system, players not in the initial list can be upgraded to a national contract and a guaranteed income of $230,000 should they make enough appearances for Australia at Test, one-day or Twenty20 level.
Smith is one of those players, brushed from the group to receive automatic retainers but who is striving via regular selection to force his way back into the fold.
The incentive to perform under the new structure could hardly be more plainly laid out but Smith will want to prove his worth to Michael Clarke’s one-day team on this brief tour of England if he is to retain a chance of such an elevation.
He played in Friday’s first match of the series, won by England by 15 runs at Lord’s, but did not leave a particularly shining impression in his first game in any format for Australia since the tour of South Africa last November. Through no fault of his own, Smith’s part-time spin was deemed not required as Australia’s bowlers had first crack at the old enemy but he did not stick around long with the bat, coming in at No.6, before edging a ball to the slips on eight.
The English remember Smith as someone who did not trouble them greatly – not that he was Robinson Crusoe on that occasion – during the 2010-11 Ashes series in Australia, when he was a member of the Test side as well.
His ODI record, as yet, is not exactly world-class either, boasting a top score of 46 in 31 matches and taking only one wicket in his past eight games, four of which he did not bowl in. Clarke, however, is a staunch supporter of his state colleague.
”Look, he’s a very talented all-rounder as we’ve seen for a while now,” the captain said. ”He can bat, bowl and is as good as anyone in the field. I’d love to see him put his hand up and make some runs. He’s batting at No.6, a crucial position, not having Michael Hussey here. He’s been bowling every day in the nets, and it looks like he’s been coming out of his hand well, and his fielding is as good as anyone in the world at the moment.”
Sent back to domestic cricket last summer, during which he captained the Sydney Sixers to the Twenty20 Big Bash League title, Smith will be desperate in the next 10 days to prove he deserves to be on the international scene.
”I’ve been dropped before and when Smithy got dropped he went back to NSW and tried to score as many runs and take as many wickets as he could,” Clarke said. ”Now, he’s been given a second opportunity. For him, it’s about getting hold of this opportunity with both hands and not letting go of it again.
”With the contracts now there is only 17 so you need to be playing at least one form of the game to be in that top 17. If he performs well and stays in the team, I don’t think he’ll have to worry about a contract, he’ll get that.”
A calamitous run-out drove a stake through Australia’s hopes of taking an early lead in the series against England.
Clarke and wicketkeeper Matthew Wade were on track to challenge the winning target of 273 but, with 69 runs left to score, were involved in a mid-pitch mix-up that proved crucial in the wash-up.
Stranded at his own end, Wade was left to trudge off with his enterprising 27 from 32 balls cut short and matters got immediately worse when Clarke followed him off, trapped leg-before to Tim Bresnan after an impressive 61.
England’s Eoin Morgan had set up victory earlier with a thundering 89 from 63 balls that set the historic ground alight.
Brett Lee’s unbeaten 29 kept a glimmer of hope open for the tourists but they fell short, with England’s bowlers James Anderson, Steven Finn, Stuart Broad, Graeme Swann and Bresnan holding them to 9-257.
Twitter – @ChrisBarrett-
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