Australian batting hero Steve Smith was a relieved man when New Zealand opted not to review a contentious decision which would have changed the course of the opening Chappell Hadlee series match last night.
On 14, Smith was struck on the pads by a fine ball from left armer Trent Boult. After a loud appeal, New Zealand opted not to refer the decision to the third umpire after their appeal was rejected by Australian umpire Mick Martell.
Replays then showed Smith would have been given out, the ball tracker showing the ball would have hit his off stump.
It’s too big a stretch to say New Zealand – beaten by 68 runs – would have won if Smith had been dismissed at that point, but without question it’s highly unlikely they would have been chasing anything like the 325 they eventually needed.
New Zealand batsman Martin Guptill wasn’t able to shed much light on the incident, as he was not fielding in an advantageous position at the time.
However Smith, who went on to a match-deciding 164, was twitchy at the time.
“I was pretty glad they didn’t review that. I think it was out so of course I’m glad,” Smith said.
“I thought he (Boult) set me up pretty well. It wasn’t swinging and I was moving across even further and he got one to come back quite late.”
Smith said he thought he heard a fielder say “I’d hit it. They just ran with that – and I may have looked at my bat at one point as well, just to throw them,” he quipped.
Captain Kane Williamson didn’t appear to get strong encouragement to review it from either Boult or wicketkeeper BJ Watling.
But Williamson couldn’t be blamed for the fielding lapses which let Smith, and Australia get away.
Watling, with a difficult chance down the leg side off Smith on 13, and Matt Henry, a regulation catch at deep mid off from Travis Head on seven, and Colin Munro at square leg when Smith was on 152, were the culprits.
By contrast, Smith took an absolute stunner, one handed leaping salmon-like to his left at gully to dismiss Watling.
It revived memories of a similar spectacular one-handed take, albeit at deep mid wicket, by Mathew Sinclair in an ODI in Melbourne 12 years ago.
“It was a pretty good catch wasn’t it,” an admiring Guptill said of Smith’s snare.
“There’s not too many around world cricket taking that. Hats off to him.”
Smith said he had a hunch a catch was coming his way. His reaction time from when the ball left Watling’s bat was 0.6s.
“It was a bit bizarre. I had a really good feeling that I was going to get one that ball.
“I was ready for it and it came pretty quick. It’s one of those ones that either sticks or it doesn’t and on this occasion it stuck at a pretty crucial time,” he said.