MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Australia captain Steve Smith’s love affair with the Melbourne Cricket Ground showed no sign of fading on Thursday as he struck his third consecutive century in Boxing Day tests to flatten Pakistan and finish another banner year with a bang.
Smith’s unbeaten 100 carried Australia to 465 for six and a 22-run first innings lead after lunch on day four of the second test before play was abandoned due to rain.
The weather may well have put paid to Australia’s hopes of forcing a result and wrapping up the three-match series 2-0 but it allowed time enough for 27-year-old skipper to boost his claim as the most consistent batsman among active players.
The innings brought up his 1,000th run in a calendar year for the third time in succession, a feat achieved by only one other Australian batsman, opener Matthew Hayden, who reached the mark in five consecutive years from 2001-05.
Following on from Christmas Day, few other players have brought the festive cheer into Boxing Day like Smith, who smashed 192 against India in 2014 and backed it up last year with an unbeaten 134 against West Indies.
Out of players who have batted at least five times at the MCG, only the great Don Bradman has a higher average, with 128.53 from his 17 innings versus the current captain’s 114.60 from eight.
With four centuries this year, Smith has now raced to 17 tons from a total of 90 innings in his career, with only Bradman (50 innings), Sunil Gavaskar (81) and Hayden (82) reaching the number faster.
Assuming the captaincy has been good for Smith’s batting, with nine of his hundreds struck when leading the team.
After watching Usman Khawaja fall three runs short of a sixth century in the first few overs on Thursday, Smith steadied the innings in a 92-run partnership with rookie Peter Handscomb and ploughed on to reach the 90s as rain clouds gathered.
He cut Sohail for three runs past point to bring up a hundred from 168 balls. Two balls later, the umpires called tea early.
With nine boundaries, it was a reserved knock by the standards of David Warner’s thrilling, run-a-ball 144 on day three, but Smith showed almost complete control, picking holes in the Pakistan field seemingly at will.
One of his more telling shots happened off the field, a parting one aimed at Pakistan’s hapless bowlers who were also plundered for 130 by Smith in the series-opener in Brisbane.
“This hundred today, not much was happening -- for a lot of the time, they weren’t really trying to get me out,” he said.
Editing by John O'Brien