Steve Smith is on an incredible run in the Ashes but is he completely invincible?
Yes, he averaged 60-plus. Yes, he has tormented England endlessly with his performances before and after the concussion episode but if England are scratching their heads about how to get rid of Steve Smith, the answer might be available in their own country, albeit in the form of a South African.
Morne Morkel is with Surrey in England and was pivotal to South Africa's plans against Smith when Australia toured the Rainbow Nation last year. The tall, lanky seamer generated extra bounce from a length and instead of targeting Smith's body like Archer, kept it on a fifth stump line outside off-stump.
The plan was to frustrate Smith into a mistake. At the other end, Keshav Maharaj plugged away at Smith with his consistent left-arm spin. Smith isn't too comfortable against left-arm spin. From Ravindra Jadeja to Rangana Herath, Keshav Maharaj and even part-timer Dean Elgar have had success against Smith. Jack Leach nearly had him - but for a no-ball - on 118 during his double hundred at Old Trafford.
Silencing Smith is the first step to getting him out. South Africa did that with aplomb with a perfectly placed plan and brilliant execution. Morkel or Rabada would use their height to frustrate Smith outside his off-stump with back of the length deliveries. Maharaj would keep his end tight with exceptional control. On the odd occasion, Rabada or Morkel would go fuller and into his pads but this was so rare that he wasn't expecting a change of plan.
The pressure got into Smith. In all three Tests, he either fell to left-arm spin or Rabada or Morkel dismissed him. At Durban, Keshav Maharaj had him caught at slip. In the second innings, Dean Elgar trapped him in front. In subsequent Tests, Rabada, Maharaj and Morkel dismissed him. The dismissals to Morkel at Cape Town are what England should probably watch carefully.
He had Smith caught at gully twice off lifters outside the off-stump. On both occasions, there was a catching fielder there for Smith's ugly shots. The field, as much as the bowler, is crucial to getting Smith out and England have appeared clueless here.
Tall fast bowlers or ones who hit the deck hard have had success against Smith. Stuart Broad, Morne Morkel, Ishant Sharma, Wahab Riaz and Ben Stokes have dismissed him. England have Jofra Archer who has pace and bounce like Morkel and Jack Leach who can do a holding job like Maharaj.
They just haven't executed their plans as well as South Africa have. Smith is in the form of his life and clearly making up for lost time but if England don't tie him down, they could start the World Test Championship with a huge blow.
Featured image courtesy: AFP / Paul Ellis