Winning Ashes in England high up on Smith’s bucket list

Australia batsman Steve Smith has laughed off criticism in England about his county cricket warm-up for the Ashes after some fans and media took exception to his Sussex signing.

Australian cricketers have long warmed up for Ashes tours in England in the County Championship but some local pundits fear Smith’s stint at Sussex will only give the visitors a helping hand as they seek to retain the urn.

Asked if he was amused by the reaction, Smith told Cricket Australia’s website: “A little bit. I’ve played a lot of cricket in England, it’s not like it’s foreign territory for me.”

Smith dominated the last England tour like no other, amassing 774 runs in his four Tests in the 2019 series to ensure Australia kept the urn.

Australia won the last Ashes 4-0 on home soil, though England paceman Stuart Broad has said that the series was “void” due to the COVID-19 restrictions that were in place at the time, drawing an incredulous reaction in Smith’s home nation.

“We were all there and playing so it was a little bit odd, you know?” Smith told reporters at a Sussex press conference.

“He’s a nice guy and loves throwing out some good banter, so it’s all part of it.”

The 2019 Ashes ended in a 2-2 draw, tempering Australia’s celebrations after they retained the urn. They have dominated at home but not won an Ashes series in England since claiming the 2001 edition 4-1.

“We haven’t been able to do it but we got close last time and were unable to get over the line,” said Smith.

“It’s certainly something that would be high up on my bucket list and everyone else in the team as well.”

“It is going to an exciting summer. England have been playing some incredible cricket over the last 12 months, very different from what we have seen before and we have been playing well too.”

Smith is expected to play three games for Sussex against Worcestershire (May 4-7), Leicestershire (May 11-14) and a home against Glamorgan (May 18-22) as a part of his preparation for the WTC final from June 7 and the marquee Ashes battle against England starting June 16.

Smith said the IPL has helped him get used to play alongside rival international players and he is eager to play alongside Cheteshwar Pujara, who has been leading Sussex this season.

“The day I don’t want to keep getting better and learning is the day I would probably call it quits. I am keen to play with Puj (Pujara) as well. I have played against him a lot, seen him score lot of runs against me. Hopefully we can spend a bit of time together in the middle and learn more about each other.”

How would it be playing with Pujara and then against the Indian batter in a space of days?

“You are playing for the same team, have seen that for years playing the IPL. While you are playing with each other you try as hard as you can have to success as a team and we will take care of their rest later on,” Smith told Sussex Cricket website.

Smith will be up against Australian teammate and friend Marnus Labsuschagne when Sussex take on Glamorgan. The two have already had a laugh about it.

“There has been a bit of banter. He thinks he is going to get me out out. We will se what happens. May be he will come into bowl when I come in. I am sure it would be good fun,” Smith said.

“It is nice to be here. I have always wanted to play county cricket and it is going to be my first time which is hard to believe.”

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