Steve Smith’s woes continue in T20 opener slot

Steven Smith's woes at the crease have intensified.

Steven Smith's woes at the crease have intensified. Photo: AAP

Australia’s experiment with Steve Smith at the top of the T20 order has failed again, with the former skipper dismissed cheaply at Eden Park.

Smith, opening with David Warner absent, made just four in the dead rubber contest with New Zealand on Sunday before rain halted play in Auckland, with Australia on 2-72 after 6.2 overs.

Travis Head (31 off 23 deliveries) and Glenn Maxwell (four off one) are at the crease at Eden Park, with Matt Short (27 off 11) also in the sheds after an explosive effort at first drop.

Short’s innings contrasted starkly with that of Smith, who departed meekly after three balls.

The 34-year-old got off the mark with a textbook pull to the boundary, but two balls later was caught half-heartedly attempting to cut a rising Adam Milne delivery, snicking it to wicketkeeper Tim Seifert.

The failure will have done little to boost Smith’s chances of selection for June’s T20 World Cup.

A middle-order bat through most of his T20 career, selectors have given Smith the chance to reinvent himself as an opener in series in India and New Zealand in recent months.

Dismal weather

In all but one contest – a 52-run knock in Visakhapatnam – he has been dismissed cheaply.

Grey skies contnue to threaten at Eden Park on Sunday, with a rain band set to sweep across Auckland later in the afternoon. With Australia’s innings above the five-over minimum, New Zealand would need to bat to produce a result.

An early finish might suit both teams, with a Test series starting at Wellington’s Basin Reserve on Thursday.

Australia, holding a 2-0 lead in the T20 series, have already retained the Chappell-Hadlee Trophy, while New Zealand lost Devon Conway to a thumb injury in the last match, and can’t afford further absentees.

Kiwi captain Mitchell Santner – who was honoured by the Black Caps for his 100th T20 cap in a pre-match ceremony – said it was an easy decision to make when he won the toss.

Steve Smith might be looking to heaven for help after another early dismissal.

“Looks like a pretty good wicket but with the rain around, you want to know what you’re chasing second,” he said.

Australia made three changes, resting captain Mitch Marsh – with Matthew Wade skipper in his absence – Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood.

Quicks Spencer Johnson and Mitchell Starc came into Australia’s attack, with Short also added to the XI.

New Zealand have also made changes, with Conway replaced by Tim Seifert and Lockie Ferguson rested for Ish Sodhi.

Santner dismissed the idea the Black Caps were already thinking about the Tests.

“Every time you play for New Zealand it’s an honour and especially against Australia … we’re up for it today,” he said.

Australia have a perfect record in T20 cricket at Eden Park, with four wins from their four outings.


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