Crowd abuse is ‘water off a duck’s back’ as Steven Smith arrives in England with a hundred

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Steven Smith has dismissed his reception by the Hampshire crowd as “white noise” and “water off a duck’s back” after his century helped Australia to a 12-run victory over England.

Both Smith and David Warner were booed loudly by large sections of the crowd when they came out to bat and when they were dismissed, but Smith was also jeered when he reached fifty and then when he completed a sprightly hundred.

“I heard a few things as I went out to bat, but it didn’t really get to me,” said Smith, speaking for the first time since his return to the Australian squad. “I’m kind of just trying to keep my head down and move straight ahead and just do my job. Fortunately today I was able to score a few runs for the team and, more importantly, spend some time in the middle before our first game of the World Cup.”

While players have been booed on reaching milestones before, it remains a rarity in the game, but Smith is realistic about the likelihood of similar receptions over the course of the summer.

“It doesn’t bother me, it’s just doing my job and I know that I’ve got the support of my team-mates up on the balcony and that’s the most important thing. If I can make them proud out in the middle and make Australians proud as much as I can well, that’s my job.

“I just blank it out. They call it white noise. When I am out there I pay no attention to the crowd and just move on with playing the game.”

While fans were vocal during the match, Smith said he hadn’t received any abuse from the general public since arriving in England.

“No, it’s been really good I haven’t copped any which is really nice. I guess everyone is entitled their opinion and how they want to treat people, but it is water of a duck’s back. I’ll just do my own thing and just keep working hard to play hard.”

While there was booing when Smith reached his century, there was also applause – none more enthusiastic than from his team-mates standing on the dressing room balcony. Justin Langer indicated after Australia’s arrival in England that there would be special attention to the mental welfare of Smith and Warner and, after the match, Nathan Lyon emphasised the importance of mutual support over what is likely to be a gruelling summer.

“Obviously you always feel for them but it’s part of the game isn’t it? We were expecting it,” said Lyon.

“I don’t think it’s just Steve and David. I think when you’re in a team environment away from home and away from your loved ones and family etcetera, I think the word ‘care’ doesn’t get thrown around enough.

“I think if you can actually care about your team-mates and staff members, I think it’s very important. At the end of the day we’re humans. Like, we all want to be loved but it just doesn’t happen like that some days so it’s just all about hanging tough together. We know that the crowds are going to be ruthless over here.”

If anything, Smith’s year in exile looks to have had a positive effect on his batting. The familiar fidgety twitching and aggressively unorthodox batting hasn’t changed, but his 116 runs at the Ageus Bowl, following scores of 89 not out, 91 not out and 76 in three previous warm-up matches, suggests he is heading into the World Cup in better ODI form than he was in before the Newlands scandal forced his absence from the game.

“I was actually a little bit disappointed with my one-day form probably the last 18 months – take out the last 12 – so it was nice to spend a bit of time out in the middle today and the practice games that we’ve had so far I have felt really good. Everything is going well and I’m looking forward to the first game coming now.”

“I’m not reading too much into it, they’re just practice games at the moment, hopefully I can keep this form for the real stuff and we’ll make a judgment then. I am feeling good, I’m feeling calm at the crease and hitting the right balls I want to the boundary.”

While England had a frustrating day dominated by injury concerns, stand-in captain Jos Buttler saw much to admire in Smith’s innings.

“He just looked like the Steve Smith of old, didn’t he?” said Buttler. “He just played well. He played good cricket shots and very in control of his innings.”

“He looks the same player doesn’t he? He was a class player twelve months ago and he still is so he hasn’t obviously forgotten how to bat in that time, he is one of the world’s best batsmen and he knows his game very well and I think that’s what you saw today.”

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