Ahead of the third Test against South Africa in Cape Town, Australia pacer Josh Hazlewood has advised his captain Steve Smith to "relax" and trust in the routines that has fetched him an average of over 60 in red-ball cricket.
Smith, who entered into the South Africa Test series after tormenting England in the Ashes Down Under, has struggled to get going in the first two Tests against the Proteas. While Smith scored 56 and 38 runs in the two innings of the Durban Test, he managed to amass the scores of 25 and 11 in Australia’s humiliating 6-wicket defeat at St George's Park.
Out of his four dismissals in this Test series thus far, Smith has become the victim of left-arm spinner thrice. The Proteas left-arm orthodox spinner Keshav Maharaj has claimed Smith’s wicket twice, while the part-time spinner Dean Elgar has dismissed the Australian captain once.
“He still looks as good as ever. It’s hard to get him out, as usual, so I think it’s only around the corner,” Hazlewood quoted according to cricket.com.au.
“When you average 63 (in Test cricket) it’s a matter of time until the runs start to come. He probably just needs to relax and go back to what works for him, and I’m sure he’ll be fine,” he added.
Hazlewood also admitted the same counsel might apply to Aussie bowlers when they come up against the South African batting maverick AB de Villiers. The potent Australian pace attack had found it difficult to neutralize the genius of De Villiers, who averaging 112.50 across the first two Tests. In fact, AB is yet to be dismissed by an Australian bowler in this series.
“We obviously struggled a bit so far. He’s just gotten off the mark and got to 20 or 30 runs quite easily, and we’ve probably gifted that to him a little bit,” Hazlewood remarked.
“Probably we just need to start better against him and treat him like any other player, and bowl good balls more often than not. We’ve come up against good players in other series, and guys who have got mountains of runs.
“Virat (Kohli during the 2014-15 series) in Australia was one early on in my career, and they’re only human so hopefully he (de Villiers) has scored all of his runs so far,” he further said.
Given the fact that Kagiso Rabada has been suspended by the ICC for the next two Tests because of his inappropriate physical contact with Steve Smith during the first day’s play in Port Elizabeth, the Aussies are expecting a green pitch for the third Test, scheduled to start on March 22 at Newlands.
However, the drought conditions of Cape Town might mean a bare flat surface is served up instead. Hazlewood though believes that Australia’s attack is adequately versatile to do their job.
“They might leave some grass on it for Vernon, who is pretty good down there (Cape Town) most of the time," Hazlewood commented.
“I’d be pretty happy - anything with a bit of grass is always good. You don’t come across it very often in Test cricket. But big Mitch (Starc) is actually a very good flat wicket bowler.
“He seems to take big wickets on those sort of tracks, and Patty (Cummins) has got a great bouncer and then good pace. So I think we’re a pretty well-rounded group, and we can tailor our skill sets to different wickets,” he concluded.