Australia batsman Steve Smith showed signs of returning to peak form when he hit his maiden half-century of Indian Premier League (IPL) 2019 for Rajasthan Royals in their fifth match of the season against Kolkata Knight Riders on Sunday in Jaipur.
Steve Smith used all his experience on a sluggish wicket at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium and scored 73 from just 59 balls to help Rajasthan Royals post a par score of 139 for 3. Smith picked up a lot of ones and twos and his seven boundaries and a six at the venue, which has bigger boundaries than most grounds in India. RR vs KKR, IPL 2019: Live cricket score
Smith showed great game awareness as he continuously kept playing with the field and picking the gaps even as the Kolkata Knight Riders bowlers kept it tight. The former Australia captain now has 152 runs from five matches at an average of 50.66.
Smith’s innings should have not just given the Royals camp a lot of confidence but also the Australian team, who are gearing up to the 2019 World Cup. Notably, this is Smith’s first fifty in IPL following his return from the ball-tampering ban.
Rajasthan Royals (@rajasthanroyals) April 7, 2019
Very good innings from Steve Smith: Brian Lara
Heaping praise on Smith’s well-paced knock, batting great Brian Lara said the Royals star read the conditions well and did the job for the team by staying till the end.
“I think it was a very good innings. People can be critical of the fact that Rajasthan Royals were able to post only 139 after losing just three wickets. It was a tricky track. Another 15-20 runs could have made it a one-sided game. He played a good hand. He is not a big-hitter of the ball. He’s not an Andre Russell or a Ben Stokes. He gets the gaps. He had a bit of hand injury as well. I respect him. He knew that someone from the top three had to say right till the end on this wicket,” Lara told Star Sports.
Smith had missed the 2018 edition of the IPL after the Board of Control for Cricket in India banned the duo of Smith and David Warner from featuring in the Twenty20 league right after the one-year ban that was slapped on them by Cricket Australia.
Smith faced a lot of backlash for his role in the infamous ball-tampering scandal that brought disrepute to Australian cricket. He even broke down while addressing a press conference on his return from South Africa shortly after the ball-tampering episode.
Smith made a return to top-level cricket at the Carribean Premier League earlier this year. He also played the Bangladesh Premier League but his stint there was cut short due to an elbow injury.
Smith had to undergo a surgery that threw his World Cup selection in doubt but the former captain seems to have recovered well. Sunday’s innings against the Knight Riders should have given him a lot of confidence.