A nervous sleeper at the best of times, especially when a Test is on, being not out on 95, would have made him edgier.
He needn’t have been as he was batting at a venue where he can probably walk on water.
It was here at the Oval in the 2013 Ashes that he discarded all pretentions of being Shane Warne’s leg-spin replacement for Australia and tasted the joy of what getting to three figures means for the first time as he embarked on the journey towards becoming a bonafide legend.
Amid a dismal Ashes 3-0 drubbing, Smith, seamer Ryan Harris and all-rounder Shane Watson were the only Aussies to give the team any joy.
On Thursday, he had the opportunity to raise his arms and kiss that badge on his helmet for the 31st time. He is the second quickest to get there (170 innings). Only the great Sachin Tendulkar (165 innings) has got there faster. It was his third hundred at The Oval and his seventh in England.
Against India, it was his ninth ton as he equalled his other big rival in the Fab 5 of modern greats, Joe Root. Virat Kohli, Kane Williamson and Babar Azam complete that set of five. In India vs Australia contests, only Tendulkar (11 tons) has more.
Bowlers extend Australia’s dominance in WTC final vs India on Day 2
<p>Read more on TOI Sports<br /></p>
Smith is also third on the list of most Test tons by Australians behind Ricky Ponting (41) and Steve Waugh (32).
Through the course of his 121, Smith relied on his tried and tested technique of moving across his stumps, showing the bowler his middle and leg sticks and any delivery pitched even on off-stump or a couple of inches outside it, was flicked through mid-wicket or mid-on. When he got the edge, he made sure his soft hands were his allies.
When he was beaten outside off, he let the bowler know with a thumb up, a vigorous nod and a range of facial expressions that could put an emoji manufacturing software to shame. He even did some commentary while batting, letting the bowler know exactly what had been bowled.
Some of it was absolute rubbish. But Smith was too decent to call it that. But he assessed in that chat, “They probably bowled short in the middle session and didn’t hit the top of the stumps as much as they probably would have liked to. I still think there’s enough there in the wicket if you bowl in the right areas.”
He also credited Travis Head for playing positively as that meant the focus was on him and not Smith which allowed him to do what he does best. Be in his bubble and grind the bowlers down.
“I thought they were focusing a lot on Trav, the way he was coming out and scoring so quickly,” he stated.
Very few bowlers have challenged Smith’s method. R Ashwin did cause him some grief with a middle and leg line in Australia two years ago, while keeping a leg-slip, but out at the Oval, he could only watch from outside the pavilion. Neil Wagner, that tireless workhorse from New Zealand, is probably the only other bowler that can claim to have troubled Smith with that line.
A lot of bowlers have been shown the stumps and they’ve licked their lips at the prospect of hitting his pads, but very few have managed to do it successfully.
Known to sleep with his bats close to him and shadow practice in the hotel room, Smith would have dreamed of a getting to three figures on Day Two. Two leg-stump half volleys from Mohammed Siraj off his first two balls to move from 95 to 103, made those dreams come true.