Steve Smith was left fuming on Boxing Day at the end of the first session after an umpire’s dead ball call that confused both the batsman and Shane Warne.
The former Australia captain engaged in a heated exchange with on-field umpire Nigel Llong for making a controversial call during the opening day of the Boxing Day Test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Thursday.
After opting to bowl, New Zealand claimed early wickets of Joe Burns and David Warner to spoil Australia’s start in the second Test of the three-match series. Smith then stitched a crucial third-wicket partnership with Marnus Labuschagne to help Australia reach 67/2 in 26 overs at lunch.
Smith was given the tricky task of seeing off one over before lunch from Neil Wagner, who dismissed him twice in Perth.
Wagner had success bowling short to Smith and, as such, was always going to target the batsman in similar fashion at the MCG.
Bowling around the wicket, Wagner hit Smith twice with short balls aimed at the body, which the batsman didn’t offer a shot to. On both occasions, Smith attempted to take a single only for umpire Llong to call a dead ball and send him back to the striker’s end to face the next ball.
While the first call didn’t raise eyebrows — it only hit him on the thigh pad — the second led to a heated debate between Smith and Llong.
Wagner bowled shorter and hit Smith under the ribs. While Smith didn’t offer a shot, he did attempt to take evasive action and was therefore entitled to run and get off strike.
However, that was not how Llong interpreted the situation, much to the confusion of both Smith and Shane Warne.
“Well the umpire’s wrong,” Warne said on Fox Cricket. “Steve Smith has every right to be angry because the interpretation Nigel Llong is giving at the minute is incorrect.
“The rule is if you evade a short ball and it hits any part of your body you’re allowed to run even if you don’t play a shot.
“I’m sure someone’s going to have a chat to Llong in the lunch break because Steve Smith’s livid and rightly so.”
Fellow Fox Cricket commentator Adam Gilchrist suggested Llong may have been influenced by the approach of Matthew Wade, who intentionally put his body on the line when facing short balls in Perth.
“He might have to consider this the Matthew Wade rule,” Gilchrist said. “He might have changed all rulings on this in his approach.”
Smith, who was batting on 77 at the end of the day, later attempted to play down the incident as he made his way off the MCG at tea.
“There wasn’t really any discussion,” Smith said. “I think he deemed them to me not playing a shot. So, that was a while ago now, I’ve completely forgotten about it — just moving on.”
Even though Steve Smith walked out to bat amid a mix of boos and cheers, he was determined not to let any of it affect him. Asked if he was bothered in any way by the hordes of New Zealand fans booing him, Smith shot back, “what booing?”
“Is that what happened? I have no idea. I don’t really listen when I walk out to bat. Cheering, booing, don’t know,” Smith said. “I’ve learned to block it all out regardless, good or bad. Don’t know.”
Australia won the first Test in Perth by 296 runs and will look to clinch the three-Test series in Melbourne with a match to spare. The third and final Test will be played in Sydney from January 3, 2020.