Cow Corner

The view from Down Under: Stevie Wonder

All hail Steven Smith, the latest Australian hero of this Ashes series and a batsman who is apparently on his way to greatness after a superb century on the opening day of the third Test.

Smith's leaping celebration on reaching 100 is plastered across most Aussie sports pages today - and rightly so. Arriving at the crease with his team teetering on the brink of collapse, Smith managed to stop the rot and guide them towards the high ground with an innings that belied his tender years.

At the age of just 24, Smith clearly has a great future in front of him, with respected cricket writer Malcolm Knox in the Sydney Morning Herald, under the headline 'Fidgety Smith ticks all boxes on his way to greatness' suggesting just that.

Exploding head syndrome must be an ongoing challenge for a young man trying to find his way in Test cricket, but of Smith's many moving parts – and there are a great many – his head is the least likely to fly off. On a critical first day of the third Test match, the 24-year-old added to his portfolio of significant contributions this year, girdling the globe from Mohali to London to Perth. Adept at batting, bowling and fielding, in selection terms Smith is a keeper.

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Chris Barrett in the same paper also writes about Smith, the "Sydney prodigy" who saved a day that had threatened, for the first time since the opening stages in Brisbane last month, to go England’s way.

For years, it seems, we’ve been hearing from the game’s cognoscenti that Steven Smith is the future of Australian cricket.

He is now justifying the hype. An exquisite first Test century in Australia in scorching Perth heat not only rammed home his credentials emphatically, but slammed the door in the face of a briefly revitalised England in the third Test.

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You deserved to be jumping for joy after today @stevesmith49. Great innings! #Ashes #uniteAus

— CA Digital Media (@CricketAus) December 13, 2013

Really good century from Steve Smith... Always best to score tons when the team are in trouble.... #Ashes — Michael Vaughan (@MichaelVaughan) December 13, 2013

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It wasn't just Smith's heroics that steadied the Australian ship on day one though - without the contribution of Brad Haddin, who knows where the hosts would be this morning.

Jesse Hogan in The Age suggests that the wicketkeeper's rescue act - which saw him contribute a crucial 55 runs but more importantly give Smith a platform to shine in a brilliant partnership - puts him in elite company. This after having been close to rock bottom just two years ago.

When Australia have been in trouble in this Ashes series Brad Haddin has been the fireman, rescuing his team from perilous situations. In similar circumstances two years ago, he was pouring petrol on the fire.

In making 55 to steady Australia on day one at the WACA Ground, the veteran became only the fourth wicketkeeper to make four consecutive scores of at least 50. The first, the West Indies' Clyde Walcott, died in 2006 but the other two were in Perth to see it: Andy Flower (who, remarkably, got seven) as England's coach and Adam Gilchrist for his induction to the ICC Hall of Fame.

Twice when Australia have stumbled on the opening morning of a Test this series it has been the recalled veteran who played vital roles in the recovery, from 5-100 in Brisbane and 5-143 on Friday in Perth. Two summers ago he was one of the main lightning rods in two of Australia's worst losses, away to South Africa in Cape Town and at home to New Zealand in Hobart.

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So what of England? Well, the Daily Telegraph's Malcolm Conn, never one to pull any punches, identifies the tourists' selection policy as one of the major reasons Australia ended day one in Perth on top.

England's Ashes tour began to go wrong weeks before they arrived in Australia. The decision to pick fast bowlers on their height rather than form and ability has proved an embarrassment.

Just how bad that September decision has been was brutally exposed yesterday when none of them were chosen for the third Test in fast bowler friendly Perth. Including tall quicks Chris Tremlett, Steve Finn and Boyd Rankin seemed like a good idea from half a world away.

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Australia will look to their own fast bowlers today, notably Mitchell Johnson who, unlike the English attack, has the tools to wreak havoc on the WACA pitch.

And the Courier-Mail's Robert Craddock has a few words of warning for England.

You just would not want to be an English batsman at the WACA on Friday. Punters may have read tweets from fans and ex-players saying this is a true, even paced deck and it was - while England bowled on it.

We said the same in Brisbane and Adelaide after England's first day bowling efforts but when Mitchell Johnson emerged on day two those tracks suddenly sprouted claws. This deck has more new ball bounce than Adelaide and looks roughly similar to Brisbane.

Near the end of a blistering hot day, England's exhausted fieldsman looked up at a scoreboard trivia question asking what was Johnson's bowling average in Perth Ashes Tests just before the ground announcer revealed "9.11 per wicket.''

Johnson must be frothing at the mouth. England beware.

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But before Johnson can get his hands on the ball, he has unfinished business with the bat in the middle. And how long the WACA crowd has to wait to see him terrorise England will depend on his own performance with the bat - and that of the man of the moment Steven Smith.

Yesterday's hero! Steve Smith has just arrived at the nets. 103 so far - how many more will he get today? #Ashes

— CA Digital Media (@CricketAus) December 14, 2013

Morning. 43 degrees yesterday & already 36 today in Perth. Aust need 400+ & England need to quickly find their mojo ! #Ashes — Shane Warne (@warne888) December 14, 2013