Steve Smith insists he’s hungrier than ever after he slammed his first century since returning to the sport.
The former Australian captain seems to back to his best, with his side’s opening match of the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup against Afghanistan just one week away.
He hit 116 off 102 balls in a trademark classy innings as Australia beat world number one side England by 12 runs in Southampton.
It was the fourth time in as many matches that he has passed fifty, following on from unbeaten scores of 89 and 91 and 76 in Australia’s last three warm-up games.
“I’m not reading too much into it, they’re just practice games at the moment, hopefully I can keep this form for the real stuff and we’ll make a judgment then,” said Smith.
“Not too many players have a year out of the game. Having performed at a high level for four to five years to have a year away has helped freshen me up and come back hungrier than ever. I’ve been able to work on a few different things and get fitter.
“I’m just trying to keep my head down and just do my job. Fortunately I was able to score a few runs and more importantly spend some time in the middle before our first game.
“I’m feeling calm at the crease and hitting the right balls to the boundary. Anytime you make a hundred for Australia it’s a real honour and great to do.”
It’s also ominous for Australia’s rivals that Smith is not even at full fitness, as he continues his recovery from elbow surgery earlier this year.
“It’s coming along pretty well but I haven’t been able to really test it yet throwing-wise,” he added.
“I’d say I’m probably at about 80 per cent throwing-wise. Hopefully it can progress a little bit further before the first game.
“I’ll be ready to if I’m called upon. We’ll see how we go. The ball’s actually coming out pretty well so if needed then I’m available to bowl.”
This was not a full international and England played 15 players due to injuries, including fielding coach Paul Collingwood, who celebrates his 43rd birthday tomorrow.
But claiming the scalp of their old enemy - and the world’s number one ODI team - won’t harm confidence.
“We spoke at the start of the day about England being the number one side in the world. Their one-day cricket has been phenomenal the past couple of years, they're playing some terrific cricket,” added Smith.
“You want to try and keep that winning feeling going – it's a habit. Whilst it is a practice match, it is good over the line against the number one side in the world.”
Meanwhile, England wicketkeeper Jos Buttler admitted Smith made all the difference in the match. Buttler – who stood in as skipper for the injured Eoin Morgan – smashed a 30-ball half-century in reply.
But England – the No.1 side in the world and the tournament hosts – ended up falling to their first loss of the summer.
And he was impressed by what he saw from Smith, “It looked like the Steve Smith of old, he played well, played good cricket shots and looked very in control, it was a good innings,” said Buttler.
“He was a class player 12 months ago and he obviously still is. He hasn’t forgotten how to bat, he knows his gave very well and he just stuck to it.
“We never like losing, we were pretty good but not quite up to the marks we expect of ourselves.
“We were ready for the tournament to start yesterday, everyone has been chomping at the bit to get started but that was a very good run out.
“Tom Curran with the new ball was excellent, Ben Stokes got some overs in, more wickets for (Liam) Plunkett and it was nice to see Chris Woakes playing really well.”
England’s injury problems are mounting on the eve of the tournament, Mark Wood anxiously awaiting the results of a scan on his left foot after pulling up lame in the seventh over of the match.
Liam Dawson also cut his finger in the field but Buttler insists his squad will be able to cope.
He added: “Hopefully we can get them (the injuries) all out of the way now!
“Liam (Dawson) could have batted today if it was the World Cup but they are warm-up games and you play it safe. We want everyone fit and available at 100 percent for the tournament.
“Mark (Wood) has worked really hard, it’s something he has battled a bit which is obviously a frustration but he is in the best hands and we are hoping for the best for him.
“You forget that is the nature of professional sport, injuries do happen.”
England’s second and final warm-up game will be against Afghanistan at The Oval on Monday.
And Buttler – who said Morgan’s finger injury was healing up nicely – cannot wait to get started.
“Our preparation has been fantastic. And we have been ready for a while now,” he added.
“We don’t want to just go through the motions, we have to play properly and get out of them what we need to.”
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