NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Australia skipper Steve Smith continued his love affair with Pune across all formats when the 27-year-old guided Rising Pune Supergiant to victory in their Indian Premier League (IPL) thriller against Mumbai Indians on Thursday.
A little more than a month ago, Smith burnished his reputation as one of the best batsmen of his era with a century in the first test against India, which his team won by 333 runs inside three days.
Smith’s second innings 109 was a masterclass on how to play India’s spinners on a rank turner, which eventually incurred a ‘poor’ rating from the very first test match at the venue.
On Thursday, Smith returned to the same Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium to hit Kieron Pollard for back-to-back sixes in the final over as he sealed a seven-wicket victory in an enthralling contest.
“Form is form anywhere, I guess,” said Smith, who was the top scorer in the four-test series against India despite his side’s 2-1 defeat.
”Pune’s a nice place to bat. It got tight in the end but we knew they had to bowl an over from a spinner or Pollard and that’s what we were going to target.
“It was nice to hit a couple of sixes and pull off the win,” Smith said after his unbeaten 84 also earned him the man-of-the-match award.
Apart from his clean hitting, Smith put on a stellar display of how to pace an innings in his first match as skipper of the Pune-based franchise.
Smith was content to play second fiddle to Ajinkya Rahane when he opened his knock but accelerated to keep up with the run rate and hit the winning runs after Mahendra Singh Dhoni, whom he replaced as Pune captain, struggled to find the ropes.
“He’s the best batsman in the world at the moment, isn’t he?” said Mumbai’s Jos Buttler, whose rapid 38 was in vain.
“No one seems to have come up with a plan quite yet for him. He played really well, he read the situation well and was not out at the end. We formulate plans at team meetings, but he was too good today,” the Englishman added.
Sunrisers Hyderabad captain David Warner reckoned his Australia team mate seems to be unable to put a foot wrong in India at the moment.
“What can’t he do. Well played @stevesmith49 fantastic knock,” Warner tweeted.
Reporting by Amlan Chakraborty in New Delhi; Editing by John O'Brien