Steve Smith on his way to an astonishing 23rd Test century.
Steve Smith on his way to an astonishing 23rd Test century.

Smith’s stunning bid to eclipse all-time greats by 30

CRICKET: Another Test and another dressing room of legends fall to the blade of Steve Smith.

Smith barely celebrated after bringing up a patient century which saved the Test for Australia and kept England winless this series.

The unbeaten 102 also ensured that by the new year he will breathe the rarefied air that will ensure he - and only he - can be considered the best since Bradman, from a purely statistical viewpoint.

Smith's 23rd Test century, brought up with a scampering single on an otherwise stale final day at the MCG on Saturday helped reel off ever more astonishing statistics.

From six innings this series, Smith has already passed 600 runs and has landed his third century: to put that in context, only one Australian - Bradman, naturally - has hit four in an Ashes series.

You'd be a madman to back against Smith - whose live average of 63.55 is the highest of any player in history at the 60-Test mark, bettering that of Sir Garfield Sobers' 61.96 - scoring another at his home ground, the SCG, in the new year.

"I spoke to him a few years ago and called him the modern-day Bradman and he laughed and said 'don't say that', but I think we can say that now," former Test opener Michael Slater said in commentary.

Steve Smith plays a cut for four during the Boxing Day Test.
Steve Smith plays a cut for four during the Boxing Day Test.
Being his 23rd Test ton, Smith now draws level with champion opener Justin Langer, the pair equal eighth on the list of Australia's most prolific centurions.


Ahead of them are a who's who of Australia's all-time greats: Bradman, Ponting, Waugh, Hayden, Clarke, Border and Greg Chappell.

Can he reach them?

"I don't know, hopefully I've got a few more left in me," Smith said after play.

"I feel like I've certainly got a lot more Test cricket in front of me. I'd like to keep on making big runs.

"I don't play for the personal accolades. I play to do everything I can for Australia, as a captain leading from the front and trying to do my job as a batsman."

While Smith's ton on Saturday was one of the most painstaking of his career - it is only pipped as his slowest century by the 261-ball effort at the Gabba when he battled a negative leg-side field from England - it was also his eighth Ashes ton, drawing him level with all-time greats Ricky Ponting, Greg Chappell and Arthur Morris.

Is Steve Smith the best since Bradman?
Is Steve Smith the best since Bradman?

Should he back up with a further century this series, he'll clear that legendary trio and leave just Steve Waugh (10 Ashes tons) between him and Bradman for Australians.

Highlighting Smith's class, he's done so in just his 40th Ashes innings  while Waugh had 72 to compile his 10 centuries.

Bradman stands clear, as he does by every statistical measure, atop the century-makers, having blasted 19 from his 63 innings.

At just 28, and with potentially another seven years of Test cricket ahead of him, it's a mark that is no longer out of Smith's reach.

In just his 30th Test as skipper, Saturday's was captain Smith's 15th century, a remarkable record of raising the bat every second Test.

His 15 tons is the third-most by a captain in history, level with Australian greats Allan Border and Steve Waugh, with just South African powerhouse Graeme Smith (25 centuries) and Ponting (19) ahead of him.

Critically, he will now certainly be clear on the ICC Test batting rating - the pure performance indicator, which will be released following the completion of this Test - to officially have the highest peak of any batsman in history not named Bradman.

Following his WACA double century, Smith leapt past Ponting and England great Jack Hobbs, drawing level with Len Hutton.

He delivered again at the MCG with an impressive first-innings half-century and second-innings ton to save the Test and put clear air between himself and Hutton.

But Smith isn't ready, yet, to acnkowledge his place among the greats of the game.

"Playing this game you can never be satisfied, and never think you're too good for the game," he said.

"The game can come back to bite you pretty quickly."

Smith has been more than a thorn in England's side this year. He's been a samurai sword to the ribs - dug in and twisted whenever the tourists have come close to being back in the contest.

"As soon as Australia's been able to wrestle the momentum back, (Smith) has hung onto it so tightly and not given England a sniff," former captain Michael Clarke said on Channel Nine.

Added champion Australian captain and opener Mark Taylor: "He's just got a hunger for runs, he just wants more."

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