Steve Smith raised his status to an even higher level on day two of the SCG Test, surpassing the marks of three Australian batting greats as the hosts continued to wither away South Africa.
The former national captain then dropped a remarkable hint of retirement, suggesting he might not play another Test in Australia.
As Usman Khawaja toiled in pursuit of his maiden Test double century on Thursday, Smith put together 104 runs from 192 balls to overtake Matthew Hayden (8625 runs) and Michael Clarke (8643) on Australia’s all-time list where he now stands. sits in fourth place.
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The New South Welshman also surpassed Sir Donald Bradman’s 29th Test hundred to reach his 30th hundred and move into third place on the all-time list of Australian centurions.
He wrote his second Test century of the summer as Australia climbed to 4-475 from 131 overs at stumps.
Smith pulled Anrich Nortje’s delivery for four behind square to bring his century close before raising his helmet and bat to the cheers of the SCG crowd.
The right-hander’s championship was removed two balls later when he took the ball back to left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj to end a knock of 104 with 11 fours and two sixes.
Allan Border, the man sitting second on the list of Australia’s leading Test run-scorers, was calling the action on Fox Cricket when Smith reached three figures.
“A big moment for him and especially for the team,” Border said.
“What a performance from Steve Smith.
“A fantastic shot that brought a significant milestone for him: a pull shot, in short, slammed, deflected behind the square.
“And the celebrations began.
Smith was non-committal when asked if he would take part in Australia’s next Test summer.
“I don’t know. We’ll see,” Smith said in the postgame press conference.
“I’m enjoying it at the moment.
“I can’t really say how long I’ll play. I’m not sure.
“Take it one tour at a time. Just enjoy it and enjoy training and trying to get better.”
“While I’m doing it, I’m happy to be playing.
“But I don’t know how long it will take.
Khawaja finished the day on 195 off 368 at the SCG, the venue where he hit two centuries in the 2022 New Year Test.
Khawaja scored his third SCG ton in a row
While Khawaja pulled off LeBron James’ signature ‘muffler’ move after hitting the first of his two centuries in last year’s Sydney Test, he did a more low-key dance after returning for two on Thursday.
Khawaja went beyond his previous Test best of 174, which he scored against New Zealand in Brisbane in 2015, and looked set to surpass his first-class career high of 214, only for his charges to be halted by further rain.
Khawaja was treated to fireworks at the other end of the ground as he watched Travis Head hit 79 off 59.
Khawaja and recalled Queenslander Matthew Renshaw (5) will continue in the middle of the third day.
Australia are aiming for a series whitewash and their first Test series victory over South Africa in Australia since 2005-06.
Pat Cummins’ men beat South Africa by six wickets in Brisbane and by an innings and 182 runs in Melbourne.
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