Smith comes into the series on the back of the 121 he made against India in the World Test Championship final, where he looked in excellent touch, although he did fall to a hack against Ravindra Jadeja in the second innings.
England’s pre-match talk has ranged from a suggestion by James Anderson that they won’t over-plan for Smith this time, having previously fallen into that trap, to expectations that Ben Stokes will go through his full range of tricks against him.
“Think we’ve seen the last few months that they do some funky things and they are going to have to try some different things at certain times,” Smith said. “For me, [I] think one of my big strengths is being able to adapt on the go and understand what they are trying to do and sort of solve the problem out in the middle. I’ll just focus on my game and try and counter each thing they come at me with. But we are expecting some different stuff, that’s for sure.”
Moeen Ali would appear a clear target for the Australians – something Moeen has already spoken about expecting – although Smith suggested a more measured approach than will likely be seen from England’s batters.
“Leachy’s [Jack Leach] not here so they don’t have a left-arm spinner, bit different the ball spinning in,” he said. “I’m sure facing Mo there’ll be times where we are a bit more aggressive and times where we bring it back.
“I won’t really change too much, it’s about understanding situations, knowing when I can press a bit more and put a bit more pressure on and knowing when I need to absorb pressure and rein it back in a bit. It’s something I’ve done for 10 years and I don’t see any need to change it.”
That successful period coincided with a change in technique where he was standing more side-on and much stiller at the crease, but early in this tour he has reverted to the back-and-across movement that was a feature of the 2019 campaign – the latest example of the skill and adaptability that makes him a great. But was that tour four years ago his pinnacle?
“Hope I’m better, I strive every day to be better,” he said. “But not sure. Was obviously a good series for me last time here and I’d love to replicate something similar and help us lift the urn at the end. But we’ll wait and see.”