The new-look batting order will have its first outing in the opening Test against West Indies, in Adelaide, which starts on January 17.
Smith has never opened in Test or first-class before in a career spanning 16 years, but is no stranger to facing an almost new ball, particularly when he was batting at No. 3. However, he cited the 2019 Ashes, where he was No. 4, as an example of when he was frequently been tested early in an innings – in those four Tests (he missed one with concussion) the highest total, and longest wait, he entered at was 60 for 2 in the 23rd over at Lord’s.
“Since I guess Marnus [Labuschagne] has been playing at No. 3, I’ve been waiting to bat for quite a long period of time and I don’t really like waiting to bat,” he told Fox Cricket while playing for Sydney Sixers on Friday night. “So I thought, why don’t I put my hand up and have a crack up top and that way you can get Cameron Green in and you’re playing your six best batters so hopefully it works out.
“I am [excited]. I like facing the newer ball. I think if you look back to the 2019 Ashes I was in pretty early most of the time there where I was facing the new ball. I batted No. 3 for a number of years as well and was in early and did pretty well against the new ball so it’s nothing new or foreign to me. You know I enjoy getting in there and getting amongst it and yeah, I’m looking forward to that challenge.”
Warner, who retired from Test cricket after facing Pakistan in Sydney, believes one of the advantages for Smith is that he will likely face more conventional bowling and tactics early in his innings which may allow him to score more freely.
In recent years, oppositions have come up with a variety of plans to Smith – including bouncers from round the wicket and stacked leg-side fields – which, while not often dismissing him quickly, have stemmed his scoring rate.
“He likes to walk cross and get onto the legside and get it away there,” Warner said. “People have been bowling short to him when he first gets in. But he finds a way. Early on, they’re going to try and swing the ball and pitch the ball up. And he’s going to be allowed to get into his game and his game plan. Get into the rhythm of how he wants to bat and he can dictate. So I’m actually looking forward to seeing how he goes.”
Warner added that he thought Smith and Usman Khawaja both had “another year or two” in them in Test cricket, which could take them up to the 2025-26 Ashes in Australia after next season’s series against India. Matt Renshaw has now been earmarked as the next batter in line, but Warner backed the move to get Green back in the side.
“It’s a good taste for Greeny…24 years of age,” he said. “They’re going to have to look for two new guys up the top [of] the order. But to get that No. 4 replacement as well, that’s your foundation at three and four. So if they can knuckle that down, they’ve got a base in the middle. Then they just have a look for some more openers.”