Australia v New Zealand - 1st Test: Day 3
Australia v New Zealand - 1st Test: Day 3

Kiwis’ Bodyline double bluff to blunt Smith

The most wickedly challenging sporting game plans can be the ones the whole wide world can see coming.

It's because if a sportsman falls into a conspicuous trap he can look like the crab who happily stumbled into a pot.

This is one of the challenges for Steve Smith when he confronts New Zealand's plan to get him caught pulling for the third time in succession using a variation of Bodyline tactics in the second Test at the MCG.

 

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Steve Smith has had a quiet Test summer to date. Picture: AP
Steve Smith has had a quiet Test summer to date. Picture: AP

The plan is so cringingly obvious its transparency is a weapon in itself.

If he gets caught pulling Smith will barely have reached the fence when spectators will be saying "might be time to give that pull shot away.''

But to do so would be to surrender some of his strike-power which would be a victory of sorts for the Kiwis.

English captain Douglas Jardine hatched the original Bodyline theory in 1932-33 for this reason - to muddle Don Bradman's thought processes and take him away from streamlined run-making formats into areas he did not want to go.

Harold Larwood bowls to Sir Donald Bradman during the 1932-33 Ashes series.
Harold Larwood bowls to Sir Donald Bradman during the 1932-33 Ashes series.

Significantly, despite all the short pitched bowling he received in the Bodyline series, Bradman was out bowled in four of his seven innings.

So the key benefit of the short ball was not the short ball itself but that it made the ball aimed at the stumps more effective because Bradman's feet were not in their customary positions.

Bradman was bowled in four of his seven innings during the Bodyline series.
Bradman was bowled in four of his seven innings during the Bodyline series.

It raises the question ... will the Kiwis try the double bluff against Smith in Melbourne?

Anyone for a sneaky yorker?

Australian coach Justin Langer said Smith is the best cricket problem solver he has met so he will surely have a plan of his own and history tells us he will find a way through it.

The plan for Smith is a bit like one set for David Gower in the 1980s when he used to flash loosely down the leg-side outside his pad.

Australia used to post a leg gully and whenever Gower fell for it the commentators would erupt.

Their point was that Gower could have taken the entire ploy out of play simply by refusing to play at balls outside his pad.

A penny for your thoughts... Steve Smith has a lot on his plate. Picture: Getty
A penny for your thoughts... Steve Smith has a lot on his plate. Picture: Getty

The same could be said for Smith and the pull shot. If he does not pull then where do they go?

Probably nowhere.

One thing about the Kiwis is they are the best disciplined team in world cricket as far as sticking to a game plan, not simply for a few overs but hour after hour on end.

Smith versus the Kiwis will be fascinating viewing at the MCG.

It is not true to say Smith is in a post-ashes form slump but if he fails to reach 50 it will be the first time in his decorated Test career he has gone six innings in a row without notching this milestone.

The Bodyline storyline is now running through the series and there are several threads from Jardine's successful tour which moderns teams could learn from.

 

Douglas Jardine (L) was a meticulous planner.
Douglas Jardine (L) was a meticulous planner.

Not only did they arrive early for the tour - the Kiwis landed four days before the first Test - but Jardine was prepared to make all sorts of sacrifices to get the best out of his men.

When a whisky brewer in Perth sent a bottle to each of the tourists, Jardine intercepted them at the team hotel and sent them back to the brewery.

When he saw one of his fringe batsmen playing golf he told him to put away his clubs for the tour because he felt it was compromising his batting grip.

Times have changed but the theme was self-sacrifice in the name of a greater cause.

The Kiwis are a tight, well-organised team but many touring teams drift through Australia carrying the pained expressions of men half-expecting to lose. And most often they do.

News Corp Australia


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