Steve Smith will open the batting when Australia meet the Proteas in an upcoming T20I series, selectors said, putting him in the box seat to do the job alongside David Warner at next year’s World Cup.
It is a remarkable renaissance for the 34-year-old, who was largely overlooked for Australia’s starting XI at last year’s failed T20 World Cup campaign.
Smith, who usually bats at three or four, relaunched himself as an opener for the Sydney Sixers in a short Big Bash League cameo at the end of last season, smacking two sizzling centuries.
Chairman of selectors George Bailey said it earned him the right to do the same for the first time at international level in the sport’s shortest format, filling a hole left by Aaron Finch’s retirement.
“He’ll open in South Africa and I guess he’s the one guy out of those multi-format players who is heading across that we wanted to give him that opportunity,” Bailey said after announcing the squad on Monday.
“It was pretty exhilarating, his innings in the Big Bash, and highlighted his skillset and what he can do.
“The way he played in the Big Bash, that’s something we want to see replicated internationally, so it’s important that he gets an opportunity to have a crack at that.
“He was really keen to come across and be a part of that.”
It gives Smith the chance to cement the spot ahead of the 2024 World Cup in the West Indies and United States.
Finch’s long-time opening partner Warner is being rested for the three T20Is in Durban from 30 August to 3 September.
In Warner’s absence, any of Mitchell Marsh, Travis Head, Marcus Stoinis or even big-hitting debutant Matthew Short could open alongside Smith.
Former captain Finch’s retirement also opened the door to a new T20I skipper, with Marsh getting the nod after his own career revival in the format.
“We’re excited to see what he does with the titled leadership next to him,” said Bailey. “The personality and the way he drives the culture with the team is excellent, so looking forward to seeing what extra he brings from a tactical point of view.”
© Agence France-Presse