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Firing top order sets Smith free

Cricket

For the first time in a long time, Australia have won a Test without a match-changing century from Steve Smith.

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Smith’s past year has been nothing short of sensational.

The 26-year-old scored a century in all four home Tests last summer, captaining Australia in the final three.

He posted scores of 215 and 143 in London earlier this year, guiding the tourists to their only Test victories on the Ashes tour.

On the preceding Caribbean tour, Smith missed out at Dominica then scored 199 in Kingston.

Captaining Australia for the first time since Michael Clarke’s retirement, Smith was hardly needed against New Zealand at the Gabba.

David Warner, Joe Burns and Usman Khawaja guided the hosts to 2-311 before Smith walked to the crease late on day one.

“They did a terrific job. It was tough early and for Davey and Joe to get through was really crucial for us,” Smith said.

“The first morning really set the tone for us … it looked quite difficult.

“The partnerships we had in the top three were crucial to our success in this Test…the top order did a terrific job.

“They enable me to come out and play quite freely at No.4. They set the game up for us.”

Smith scored 48 in his first dig, Khawaja and Adam Voges kicking on in a 157-run stand that effectively batted NZ out of the contest.

The gifted right-hander suggested he wasn’t nervous about his first Test as fulltime captain.

“Mostly excitement,” he said.

“It’s a big responsibility and challenge…it’s great to lead such a young team full of energy.”

It was Australia’s most-inexperienced Test outfit to start a home summer since 1987.

Peter Siddle has rejoined the 12-man squad and will fly to Perth, however the hosts are expected to name an unchanged XI for the second Test that starts on Friday.

Australia will take an unassailable 2-0 lead in the three-Test series if they win at the WACA.

-AAP

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