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Smith the best problem-solver in the game: Langer
August 7, 2019 | 6:16 PM
by Agencies
Smith's batting in either innings at Edgbaston was flawless, as he celebrated his return to Australia's Test side with 286 runs in the game. If there was any weakness, it seemed to be well-hidden. - ICC
 
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Birmingham: Australia head coach Justin Langer has hailed Steve Smith as "the best problem-solver in the game", after the latter struck match-defining twin centuries in Australia's 251-run win in the first Ashes Test in Birmingham.

Smith's batting in either innings at Edgbaston was flawless, as he celebrated his return to Australia's Test side with 286 runs in the game. If there was any weakness, it seemed to be well-hidden.

"You throw to him in the nets and you literally feel like you can't get him out and there's no batsman like that and you just end up throwing a million balls and you are just lost for answers," Langer said.

"I guess you would have to ask England how they feel about that and they had some interesting tactics for him. They had the really short point, which I had never seen before. They obviously had a tactic they prepared and Trevor Bayliss has seen a lot of Steve Smith since he was a kid.



"They would have studied him closely, but he just has a knack... well, he is the best problem-solver in the game." Smith's glorious form in the Test was nothing different from where he left at the time of his ban.

In the 2017-18 home series, he aggregated 687 at an astonishing average of 137.40. The third-placed batsman in the MRF Tyres ICC Test Rankings showed his class with a defiant 144 in the first innings, which staged Australia's remarkable comeback, after they were reduced to 122/8 at one stage. Langer, who played 105 Tests for Australia and has been a keen observer of the game, likened Smith to some of the game's all-time greats.



"I said during the summer that Virat Kohli is the best player I have ever seen, but that [Smith's performance] is just another level," Langer said. "I remember being a young player on the fringe for a long time watching Steve Waugh on all the tours, and he was a run machine. I wanted to be like Steve Waugh. Then I played with Punter and I wanted to be Ricky Ponting because he's a run machine.

"I played with Allan Border, and in my third Test, he made his 10,123rd Test run [becoming the highest scorer of all time] and I wanted to be Allan Border. You have in different teams, different eras, great players, but for someone like Smudge [Smith], who is averaging over 60 and the way he played in this innings, with all the pressure and everything that is on him, it was not only great skill but enormous character, enormous courage, very brave, unbelievable concentration, unbelievable physical stamina, unbelievable mental stamina, all traits of great players."

Smith's career redemption has been one of the most inspiring stories in modern-day cricket. Having started as a leg-spinning all-rounder who batted at No.8 and 9 in his Test debut at Lord's in 2009, he became the No.1 Test batsman in the world en route to acquiring Australia's captaincy.

Since the fifth Ashes Test at The Oval in 2013, when he scored his first Test century, he has averaged a staggering 71.52. And for players who have batted 50 innings or more, his career average of 62.96 is next only to Sir Don Bradman's 99.94. "Let's face it, when he first came in, leg-spinner, unorthodox... [everyone thought] 'I'm not sure this kid's going to make it'," Langer said.

"Then he goes away [and decides] 'I don't want to be a legspinner; I want to be the best batsman in the world'. Then he transforms himself and he is the best batsman in the world with Virat. It's a great credit to him."

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