02nd November 2015
Australia captain Steven Smith has confirmed he will drop down to No.4 for the Test series against New Zealand in an effort to spread the experience around in Australia's batting order. The move means that Australia's top three will feature two players short on Test experience, with Joe Burns set to be David Warner's latest opening partner and Usman Khawaja the new No.3.
Burns will be playing his third Test match and Khawaja his tenth when the teams walk out at the Gabba on Thursday. Smith's self-demotion is a curious move given that since shifting up to No.3 for the tours of West Indies and England this year he has scored 199, 215 and 143, as well as a pair of fifties, and averages 71.90 in the position.
His average of 80 at No.4 came entirely as a result of his prolific home summer against India last season, but finding a productive No.3 has been more of an issue for Australia since Ricky Ponting finished up in the position. In that time, Shaun Marsh and the now-retired Shane Watson are the only other Australians to have scored centuries at No.3, of more than 10 who have tried the spot.
"I think breaking the more experienced players up a little bit in the order [is the right thing to do]," Smith told the Daily Telegraph. "If there's a run of wickets hopefully I can stop it. I think a lot of the players that are coming through at the moment are top-order players. It's just the way I see it at the moment. Breaking it up between Davey and myself and hopefully the guys at the top and No.3 do well and then I can just come in and get some runs on the board as well."
Khawaja has played 116 of his 157 first-class innings at No.3, whereas Smith has been less fixed to a certain position and has floated between No.3 and No.6 for most of his red-ball career. His versatility up and down the order means that should the new top order fail to fire, he would have no qualms about switching back to first drop.
"I think it would probably be more if it doesn't work out for certain players [that I would change back]," Smith said. "If it didn't work out and I saw it fit to go to three, that's no drama as well. I really don't see a big difference between three and four playing wise."
This will be Smith's first home summer as Australia's full-time captain, and he is hoping to replicate his personal results of last season, when he captained Australia in three of the four Tests against India and scored hundreds in all four games.
"One of my philosophies is to make sure I am leading from the front," Smith said. "So hopefully I can do that this summer and a summer with the bat like the last one would be nice, so we'll see how it goes."
With excerpts from:http://www.espncricinfo.com/australia-v-new-zealand-2015-16/content/story/935421.html
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