Darren Lehmann hails 'exceptional' Australia captain Steve Smith

19 December 2017 01:29

Steve Smith's prolific Ashes exploits are earning him rare statistical comparisons with Don Bradman and rave reviews from Australia coach Darren Lehmann.

Smith's series tally of 426 runs at an average of 142 has elevated him to joint-second in the all-time list of the world's greatest batsmen, according to the International Cricket Council, alongside former England captain Len Hutton and behind only his own peerless compatriot Bradman.

It is not only the number-crunchers who are impressed by the Ashes-winning Australia captain's prolonged run of brilliant form, though.

Coach Lehmann, speaking after Australia regained the urn with an innings win in Perth to go 3-0 up with two to play, mentions Smith in the same breath as highly-successful former captains such as Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke.

The ICC's rankings system, backdated to include such historical greats as Hutton, Bradman, Ponting and others, has Smith level on 945 with Hutton - who famously holds England's national-record Test score of 364, against Australia in 1938.

Smith still trails Bradman by 16 ranking points on the ICC table, and the small matter of slightly more than 37 runs per innings in Test averages.

Nonetheless, Lehmann is rightly impressed with the 28-year-old's stellar career progression.

"He's running pretty hot, isn't he?" he said.

"I've been lucky enough to see all of his Test hundreds.

"For me, seeing him evolve from that first Test hundred at The Oval (in 2013) to now - he just changes his own plans to what the bowlers are doing and what the wicket's doing, and what the game needs.

"He's gone to a another level."

Lehmann sees Smith as a rival to the captaincy legacies of Smith and Ponting too.

"'Pup' (Clarke) and Ricky Ponting at times were exceptional captains and exceptional batters when they were leading the team," he added.

"Statistically, you only see that at the end I suppose. But the way he's gone about it, averaging 72 or 73 as a Test captain, that's pretty special.

"For him to keep delivering what he needs to do is exceptional under the pressure he has in Ashes series."

Smith's team are on course at present to do what Clarke's and Ponting's once did to England - whitewashing them 5-0 in 2006/07 and 2013/14.

Lehmann, however, retains a healthy respect for the opposition despite three wide-margin Test wins already this winter.

"It was a lot closer than the scores (suggest)," he said.

"Certainly in Brisbane they had the upper hand at certain stages, but the captain was brilliant there.

"Adelaide was close - and this one (in Perth), albeit by an innings, was still close.

"That's the game, winning the big moments and transferring the pressure back to the other side."

The series resumes with the Boxing Day Test in Melbourne next week.

Source: PA