Steve Smith is backing Melbourne Cricket Ground curator Matt Page to deliver an acceptable wicket for the Boxing Day Test between Australia and New Zealand.

The final match at the MCG before that contest - the Sheffield Shield clash between Victoria and Western Australia - had to be cancelled on Saturday due to an unsafe pitch.

Umpires called off day one after Western Australia batsmen Shaun Marsh and Marcus Stoinis were struck multiple times amid unpredictable bounce.

Cricket Australia promised to ensure there is a wicket of "international standard" for December 26, though, and Smith has no doubt Page will do the necessary hard work.

"I'm sure they'll produce something good for us on Boxing Day," the Australia superstar said ahead of the first Test in Perth this week.

"It's a really fine line with that wicket. Pagey is a very good curator - he'll be working as hard as he can to try to get a wicket that is suitable for bat and ball.

"These guys have a really tough job. They've tried a lot down in Melbourne but not been able to get something that is a bit more bowler friendly.

"They're going to work hard over the next couple of weeks to get us a good wicket for Boxing Day."

Virat Kohli has returned to the top of the batting list in the ICC Test Player Rankings ahead of Steve Smith, whose Australia team-mate David Warner is back in the first five.

Smith struggled for form in Australia's dominant series win over Pakistan and, having scored only 36 runs in the second Test in Adelaide, saw his points drop from 931 to 923.

Conversely, India skipper Kohli scored 136 in the day-night Test against Bangladesh and returned to the summit on 928 points.

Warner rose an impressive 12 places to fifth after making a sensational 335 against Pakistan, while fellow Aussie Marnus Labuschagne makes the top 10 for the first time in his career.

England captain Joe Root is back in the top 10 having slipped out last week. He climbs to seventh after a sublime 226 versus New Zealand in the drawn second Test.

Steve Smith has denied suggestions he was trying to undermine Australia captain Tim Paine in the second Test against Pakistan.

Australia earned a resounding innings-and-48-run victory over Pakistan in Adelaide to seal a 2-0 series triumph.

However, Smith – who was replaced by Paine after being banned for his role in the Newlands ball-tampering scandal last year – was accused by ex-skipper Ian Chappell of making field adjustments without first talking to his captain.

Speaking on Macquarie Sports Radio when calling the Test, Chappell said: "I tell you what I don't like to see, Steve Smith is moving a few fieldsmen around.

"He did have a chat with Tim Paine, trying to talk Tim Paine into moving a fielder on the off-side, but I'm not sure Tim Paine moved him as far as Steve Smith wanted.

"Steve Smith started moving him, I hate to see that. England used to do it a bit, blokes other than the captain and I always felt it was white-anting the captain."

Smith, though, insists his intentions were good and his only aim was to try to help the team.

"Look I only try to help Tim as much as I can, you know," he told Channel Nine. 

"He's doing a terrific job. But I give him suggestions and things like that, I only want the team to do well, I'm certainly not undermining him."

Smith was uncharacteristically out of touch with the bat, scoring just 40 runs across the two Tests but, while disappointed on a personal level, was happy to see the team perform to such a high standard.

"I always hate not being out there doing it myself but it's great to see the boys out there play so well and get us two great victories," Smith added.

Out-of-sorts England captain Joe Root has fallen out of the ICC's top 10 Test batting rankings, while Virat Kohli has closed the gap on Steve Smith at the top.

Root was ranked the world's best five-day batsman four years ago and had been in the top 10 since August 2014.

However, he has struggled for runs of late and made just 13 across two innings in England's heavy first Test defeat to New Zealand.

Smith, who made only four in Australia's recent win over Pakistan, remains at the top of the rankings, though his lead over Kohli is just three points following the India captain's 27th century against Bangladesh.

Kohli is one of four Indians in the top 10 - along with Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane and Mayank Agarwal - while New Zealand trio Kane Williamson, Henry Nicholls and Tom Latham also feature alongside Sri Lanka's Dimuth Karunaratne and England all-rounder Ben Stokes.

Pat Cummins is still top of the bowling rankings for the longest format, with Black Caps left-armer Neil Wagner up to third thanks to his match figures of 8-134 in the win over England.

The Hundred's inaugural fixture will be between Oval Invincibles and Welsh Fire next July and could feature Steve Smith, Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow.

The first contest of the England and Wales Cricket Board's (ECB) new 100-ball competition will take place on July 17 at The Oval, it was announced on Tuesday.

That match will see the Invincibles, whose squad features England internationals Roy, Sam Curran and Tom Curran, host Welsh Fire, who have Australians Smith and Mitchell Starc, as well as England duo Bairstow and Tom Banton.

On Saturday July 18, Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler and Aaron Finch might all feature when Manchester Originals entertain Northern Superchargers, while Birmingham Phoenix meet London Spirit at Edgbaston.

Jofra Archer's Southern Brave's first fixture is against Welsh Fire in Cardiff on July 19, the same day Joe Root and Rashid Khan could debut for Trent Rockets against Birmingham.

Each of the eight teams have eight league fixtures as they play their designated 'rivals' home and away and every other franchise once.

The team that finish top of the league will advance to the final, where they will meet the winner of a clash between the sides that finish second and third.

Misbah-ul-Haq says Pakistan's pace attack must hit Steve Smith's "blind spot" if they are to prevent Australia's "batting genius" from piling on the runs in the two-match Test series.

Smith averaged an astonishing 110.57 in a drawn Ashes series in England on his return to the Test stage after serving a one-year ban for his part in the Newlands ball-tampering scandal.

The former captain will be the prized scalp for Pakistan when they attempt to secure a first series win in Australia in the longest format.

Misbah wants to see his formidable fast bowlers frustrate the top-ranked Test batsman in the world when the series gets under way at the Gabba on Thursday.

The Pakistan head coach said: "As far as Steve Smith goes, there's a blind spot for every top batsman in the world; as a bowler you're always interested in pitching the ball there.

"It's important that we bowl with consistency there. Our bowlers are executing the plans very well right now, and hopefully we'll be able to build that kind of a pressure and stay disciplined, especially early in the innings.

"No matter how good a batsman is batting, it's about consistency and bowling the maximum balls in those areas that build pressure and the batsman respects you, and you force him to make a mistake.

"All the batsmen you talk to, any batsman in the world, that's the area where you have to defend a ball, and that is a six-to-eight-metre spot where you have to play the top of off stump.

"That's the area from where if it's happening then that creates a great chance. Even if it's not happening, you have less chances to do anything with the ball.

"It's about consistency, and top players in the world, if you miss those areas, that special length and line, then they are good enough to just cash in on that.

"You have to be very, very disciplined, just keep the ball there, and if it's happening you are already in the game."

The former Pakistan captain added:  "The kind of form he is in, there's no doubt Steve Smith is a batting genius. We will try our best to execute our plans and dismiss him."

 

Key Opta facts

- Pakistan have lost their last two multi-game bilateral Test series, they have not lost more consecutive series in the format since losing all three they competed in across 2007.

- Pat Cummins' tally of 87 Test wickets is more than any other bowler has taken since the start of 2018.

-  Australia are undefeated in their last 30 Tests at the Gabba - winning 23 of those matches. Their last defeat at the Brisbane venue was against West Indies in 1988.

Steve Smith insists there are no hard feelings towards West Indies batsman Nicholas Pooran despite his relatively lenient four-match ban for ball tampering.

Australia's skipper at the time, Smith, along with vice-captain David Warner and team-mate Cameron Bancroft, received a long suspension for his role in the ball-tampering scandal in South Africa in March 2018.

Smith and Warner did not play for a year following sanctions handed out by Cricket Australia, with Bancroft returning after nine months.

Meanwhile, Pooran, who admitted to changing the condition of the ball in a one-dayer against Afghanistan, will miss four games after being punished by the International Cricket Council.

The Windies will soon have Pooran available again, but Smith would prefer not to reflect upon the contrasting punishments.

"Everyone is different, every [cricket] board is different with the way they deal with certain issues," Smith said. "For me, I copped it on the chin. It is what it is.

"I don't feel hard done by. It was a long time ago now. I've moved past it and I'm focusing on the present.

"I know Nicholas, I've played a bit of cricket with him, and he's a talented player and someone with a bright future.

"I think he'll learn from his mistake and move past it. I think he's going to be an exceptional player in white-ball cricket."

Steve Smith apologised to his Australia team-mates after being fined for dissent in the Sheffield Shield as captain Tim Paine reminded the squad of their responsibilities.

Ex-skipper Smith was hit with a 25 per cent fine of his match fee for his objection to being given out caught behind when representing New South Wales against Western Australia.

It was one of two high-profile reprimands in the latest round of fixtures, with paceman James Pattinson suspended for the first Test against Pakistan for using abusive language in Victoria's clash with Queensland.

Star batsman Smith admitted he must behave in a more appropriate manner out in the middle when dismissed.

"I came in and apologised to the group for getting a code of conduct," Smith said ahead of Australia's Test series with Pakistan. 

"I don't think there was a great deal in it but I've copped it and I have to look at when I get out and the way I conduct myself. 

"I know lots of kids watch me play and watch all of us play and the way we conduct ourselves when we get out as well as when we're batting.

"We have to be very mindful of that and sometimes just bite the bullet and just conduct ourselves in, I guess, a better manner at times. 

"Sometimes your emotions can get the better of you out on the field. We're playing a game [where] everyone is trying to do their best and sometimes that happens.

"We sign up to values and in our contracts we've got a code of conduct there we have to play by. I got pinged and so be it. I felt I should apologise for that."

Paine believes the incidents are a reminder to the whole squad to act appropriately, no matter who they are representing.

"I think it's more just a reminder that we've got to set those standards all the time," he said.

"Whether we're playing for Australia or we're playing club cricket or we're playing for our states or we're not playing cricket, there are standards we set ourselves to live by day in and day out so it's important we do that whether we're on the field off the field, regardless of who we're playing for.

"We've had a couple of instances this week but we always revisit them. We did again last night, just to brush up on what's expected and what we expect of the group. 

"Both of those guys apologised, they know that they fell a little bit short of what we set ourselves in the Test team. 

"And the fact that it's important that we maintain that when we go back to state cricket and lead the way there. 

"They're disappointed with that but we are going to keep on top of it and maintain the level that we've set so far in the last couple of years."

Steve Smith has signed with the Sydney Sixers and the Big Bash League outfit hope to have the star batsman available late in the upcoming season.

Smith, 30, has previously played 20 matches for the Sixers, making 499 runs – including four half-centuries – at an average of 31.18.

The right-hander's availability for the 2019-20 campaign is again dependent on Australia selection, but the Sixers are hoping Smith can play "the last two to three games of the regular season, and the finals series".

"I am excited about getting an opportunity to play for the Sydney Sixers again," Smith said in a statement on Friday.

"When the schedule came out and I saw there was a chance to wear the magenta again I jumped at the opportunity and look forward to joining up with the team after my January national team commitments have ended."

Sixers general manager Jodie Hawkins hailed the signing of Smith, saying the former Australia captain would add plenty to the squad.

"We couldn't be more excited to see Steve back in magenta this season," she said. "He was a part of our original squad that won the first BBL back in January 2012 and to see him return to our setup again is going to be brilliant."

"He's an asset not just on the field but also for our young players.

"Sixers fans will also be delighted to see him back in team colours later this season after the international season."

The Sixers confirmed Smith was replacing wicketkeeper-batsman Peter Nevill in their squad.

They begin their season against the Perth Scorchers on December 18.

Joe Burns has returned to a 14-man Australia squad at the expense of Marcus Harris and Usman Khawaja for the two-Test series against Pakistan.

Queensland batsman Burns is expected to partner David Warner at the top of the order on his home surface when the series begins at the Gabba on November 21.

Burns, who was overlooked for the Ashes after battling post-viral fatigue, is back in the fold despite making 0 and 11 for Australia A in this week's tour match against Pakistan.

Cameron Bancroft compiled a defiant 49 in the first innings of that match and is set to compete with Burns for a recall.

National selector Trevor Hohns indicated Travis Head, one of two vice-captains, would likely regain his spot in the playing side.

The 25-year-old South Australian was dropped for the final Ashes Test, but Will Pucovski's withdrawal from consideration for mental health reasons left selectors with few genuine middle-order options.

"Travis has immense experience as a young leader for his state," Hohns said on Thursday.

"He's certainly been in the mix, [firstly] to play, and we also like the way he goes about his business when he's around the team and the leadership skills he has to offer."

Left-handers Harris and Khawaja will not be involved in Brisbane or in the second Test in Adelaide, which starts on November 29.

Uncapped seamer Michael Neser is one of five pace bowling options in the squad alongside Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood, Mitchell Starc and James Pattinson.

Meanwhile, Steve Smith has been fined 25 per cent of his Sheffield Shield match fee after pleading guilty to the charge of showing dissent at an umpire's decision.

The world's top-ranked Test batsman showed visible frustration after being judged caught behind for 103 in the first innings of New South Wales' match against Western Australia.

 

Australia Test squad: Tim Paine (captain), Cameron Bancroft, Joe Burns, Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Michael Neser, James Pattinson, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Matthew Wade, David Warner.

Steve Smith conceded he may lack the strength of Twenty20 cricket's big hitters, but the Australia star knows he has the talent to make runs in the shortest format.

Speaking after smashing a magnificent unbeaten 80 off 51 deliveries to help Australia beat Pakistan by seven wickets, Smith cited his placement and timing as key.

The result at Manuka Oval gave the hosts a 1-0 series lead and it all hinged on Smith's well-crafted knock.

"If you look at my batting record in T20 internationals, it's not crash hot," said Smith.

"I guess you have to bear in mind, [early in my career] I was batting number eight or nine, coming in and slogging, facing half a dozen balls tops. It's never easy so it's going to affect your record at some point.

"I don't doubt my ability. I know the tempos of the game and I've played a lot of [T20] cricket now.

"I may not be as strong as some of the other guys but I use placement and timing.

"The white ball usually flies off the bat particularly when it's brand new. If you're timing the ball well you get value for your shots most places."

Australia successfully chased down 151 for victory in the second of three T20 meetings, with Smith accounting for over half of that total in an innings that included 11 fours and one maximum.

The former captain gave an insight into his thought processes when he is at the crease with a target to beat, and described his responsibility to "fix it" when things are not going to plan.

"If you're chasing, you weigh up the situation and what you need and what you need to go at, which bowlers you want to target and just work out the maths in your head and that's chasing," he explained.

"Batting first you have to sum up conditions and how the wicket is playing, what you think a good score is and who is in the opposition, all those sorts of things.

"I've played a lot of cricket now, I'm pretty experienced and my role in this team is to fix it if the top don't come off.

"They [the top order] have been exceptional in these games that we've played, Sri Lanka and the first one against Pakistan before we got washed out.

"They're pretty consistent up top so if they don't come off then it's up to me to fix it."

Steve Smith smashed an unbeaten half-century as Australia beat Pakistan by seven wickets at Manuka Oval to lead the Twenty20 International series.

Prolific captain Babar Azam made a classy 50 and Iftikhar Ahmed bludgeoned 63 not out from only 34 balls to get the tourists up to 150-6 after winning the toss.

Australia looked to be heading for an emphatic victory in the first match of the series when they were frustrated by rain, but they were not to be denied two days later in the day-night contest in Canberra.

Smith got them home with a magnificent 80 off 51 deliveries, pacing his innings to perfection as top-ranked Pakistan were consigned to defeat with nine balls to spare.

The brilliant Babar struck Kane Richardson's first two balls for four and kept Pakistan ticking along after Fakhar Zaman and Haris Sohail fell cheaply to Pat Cummins and Richardson respectively.

Ashton Agar (2-23) put the squeeze on, seeing the back of Mohammad Rizwan and Asif Ali with Pakistan struggling to increase the run rate, Cummins and Mitchell Starc also giving little away.

Pakistan were 106-5 when Babar was superbly run out by David Warner just after reaching his half-century - which included six fours - but Iftikhar struck Richardson for three sixes and found the ropes five times in a much-needed onslaught.

Warner (20) was looking ominous in the run chase until the in-form opener's off stump was clattered by Mohammad Amir and Australia were 48-2 in the sixth over when Mohammad Irfan got rid of Aaron Finch.

Smith was in imperious touch, though, effortlessly flicking Amir for a wristy six and putting on 58 for the third wicket with Ben McDermott, who was trapped in front by Imad Wasim for 21.

Former captain Smith took 15 off the 17th over from Amir and struck 11 boundaries before watching on from the other end as Ashton Turner struck the winning run in the penultimate over.

Sri Lanka assistant coach Rumesh Ratnayake was "gutted" after another poor batting performance proved costly against Australia in a Twenty20 international.

Chasing 234 to win the series opener in Adelaide, Sri Lanka were restricted to 99-9 last Sunday.

And another one-sided contest played out in Brisbane on Wednesday, as the tourists were bowled out for 117 with one over to spare.

Just two Sri Lanka batsmen passed 20 as quicks Billy Stanlake and Pat Cummins and spinners Ashton Agar and Adam Zampa took two wickets each.

Australia then chased down a victory target of 118 in 13 overs, with David Warner (60 not out) and Steve Smith (53 not out) guiding their side to a convincing nine-wicket win.

"Disappointed is ... I think it's too nice a word," Ratnayake told reporters, with Australia now holding an unbeatable 2-0 series lead with one to play.

"I'm gutted, really. The boys are gutted. But [it is] unacceptable because the way we batted ... [it was] as if we, at times, we thought we were going to be all out in the 12th over or so.

"We are going to rectify it. We are going to sort of revisit [it] in our meetings and see what went wrong. It is intent which I feel was not there."

Sri Lanka entered the three-match series in Australia fresh off a 3-0 whitewash of world number one side Pakistan.

Making that triumph even better was the fact it came in Pakistan, but Sri Lanka have struggled on the fast, bouncy Australian pitches.

Ratnayake said it was a priority to correct that ahead of next year's T20 World Cup, to be played in Australia from October to November.

"Our preparation needs to be much more ... it needs to have at least a period of six weeks," he said.

"We came directly - virtually directly from Pakistan. The sub-continent wickets are different from these ... no excuses though.

"Adaptation was the thing which we did not do in the past two matches."

Australia paceman Stanlake was pleased with his night's work but preferred to talk up former Test captain Smith, who caught the eye with a terrific half-century.

"It's exciting for us. I think it's exciting for the public as well, just to watch him play T20 cricket," Stanlake said.

"Obviously, they don't get to see him do that too much.

"But yeah, he is an absolute class player, you saw how he good was tonight, again. He does it in all formats and hopefully we can see him doing it often."

The three-match Twenty20 international series concludes in Melbourne on Friday.

David Warner and Steve Smith each produced unbeaten half-centuries as Australia breezed to a nine-wicket victory over Sri Lanka and secured a Twenty20 series win.

Australia enjoyed a record margin of victory in the opening contest of the three-match series, triumphing by 134 runs, and it quickly became apparent matters would be similarly straightforward at the Gabba.

Sri Lanka batted first and could not see out the 20 overs as they were all out for 117 with Kusal Perera top-scoring on a measly 27.

Captain Aaron Finch's first-ball dismissal for the hosts was then as good as it got for Sri Lanka with the ball, as Smith joined Warner for a straightforward chase, which was completed with seven overs still remaining.

The opener made 60 and Smith added 53 as Australia (118-1) clinched the series with a match to spare, ahead of surely more taxing T20 and Test outings against Pakistan next month.

Sri Lanka did not help themselves after winning the toss and electing to bat, with a terrible mix-up seeing Kusal Mendis run out in just the second over.

Australia never ceded control and shared the wickets around as Ashton Agar (2-27) accounted for the potentially dangerous duo of Avishka Fernando (17) and Perera.

Alex Carey was busy behind the wicket, stumping both Wanindu Hasaranga and Lasith Malinga off the bowling of Adam Zampa (2-20).

Billy Stanlake took 2-23 and Pat Cummins 2-29, before the latter ran out Lakshan Sandakan to bring another dismal Sri Lanka innings to a close.

Opening bowler Malinga then gave the tourists brief hope as Finch was caught down the leg side by Perera, though that wicket merely brought Smith to the crease.

An unbroken partnership of 117 was speedy enough without being truly explosive, with 15 fours - four of them in the fifth over alone - but no maximums between Warner and Smith.

Sandakan made a mess of a late attempted run-out of Smith, and Australia had seven overs to spare when Hasaranga bowled a wide past Warner to complete a simple chase.

David Warner marked his return to the international Twenty20 arena with a stunning maiden century as Australia eased past Sri Lanka by 134 runs in their opening game.

Warner was back in the T20 fold for the first time since the infamous ball-tampering saga, in which the star Australia batsman served a year-long suspension.

Having already made his Test and ODI comeback, birthday boy Warner capped his T20 return with an unbeaten hundred in his 71st appearance against touring Sri Lanka in Adelaide on Sunday.

Warner led Australia to a record-breaking victory, surpassing last year's 100-run win over Zimbabwe, and their highest T20 total on home soil – 233-2 – before hapless Sri Lanka only managed 99-9 in response at Adelaide Oval.

After a forgettable Ashes series in England which only yielded 95 runs across five matches, Warner was desperate to return to form as the Australian summer got underway.

Warner was back to his brilliant best on his 33rd birthday as the big-hitting star scored 100 runs from just 56 balls in game one of the three-match series against Sri Lanka – bringing up his ton from the last delivery of the innings.

The tone was set by Warner and captain Aaron Finch (64) after Sri Lanka opted to bowl first, with the opening pair combining for 122 runs from just 10.5 overs and reaching their half-centuries in the same over.

Finch and Warner smacked consecutive sixes from Kasun Rajitha – who finished with figures of 0-75 from four overs for the most expensive spell in T20 history – before the former was caught at deep midwicket off the bowling of Lakshan Sandakan (1-41).

Glenn Maxwell (62) then joined Warner at the crease as the duo put on 107 runs from just 52 balls, though Maxwell was dismissed by Dasun Shanaka (1-10) in the last over.

Sri Lanka made a nightmare start to their run chase after Kusal Mendis fell victim to Mitchell Starc (2-18) for a duck in the first over, before the visitors were left reeling at 13-3 in the four over as Pat Cummins (2-27) wreaked havoc.

Shanaka was Sri Lanka's highest score with 17 on putrid day for Sri Lanka, with spinner Adam Zampa (3-14) cleaning up the final three wickets, while Maxwell produced a stunning piece of fielding to run out Wanindu Hasaranga (5).

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