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Steve Smith to get T20 World Cup chance at Eden Park

3 minute read

Without an Indian Premier League contract, Steve Smith's World Cup hopes will enter the last-chance saloon at Auckland's Eden Park this weekend.

STEVE SMITH. Picture: Michael Dodge/Getty Images

Auckland's Eden Park looms as the last chance saloon for Steve Smith to showcase his T20 credentials and play at a fourth T20 World Cup in June.

The modern-day great was an onlooker for game one of the Chappell-Hadlee series on Wednesday night as Mitch Marsh's side squeaked out a last-ball six-wicket win in Wellington.

Marsh has indicated Smith will play in Auckland as the series concludes with Eden Park matches on Friday night and Sunday afternoon.

The stakes are high for Smith who doesn't have an Indian Premier League contract, making the hit-outs pivotal to show form for June's T20 World Cup.

Given his recent run with the bat - eight single-digit scores in the past 15 matches and a 52 against India last November the only half-century in the last 25 outings - Smith has missed out on a spot in the Australian XI and may battle to make the travelling 15-man squad.

Marsh admitted as much when he named Travis Head, David Warner and himself as the first-choice top three this week, with selectors thinking of Smith mainly as a top-order option in his twilight years.

Coach Andrew McDonald confirmed Smith was "in our thinking" but also in a race for his spot.

"There's competition for places and that's a good problem to have," he said.

"We're playing him for a reason. If he wasn't in our thinking then he wouldn't be on the plane over here.

"There's 20 plus players that are in our thinking. We're not settled in terms of the final 15 at this stage and that's why these games are really important."

Smith hasn't featured regularly in the shortest format at international level for two years, playing just once at the last T20 World Cup and twice since, in last November's series in India.

In two Big Bash innings this season, he made 61 and a duck.

Without IPL cricket to look forward to, which McDonald called the closest thing to international-level cricket, the Eden Park clashes loom as crucial for Smith.

"He'll get some opportunity here. How he goes in those opportunities, I think will dictate what happens," McDonald said.

"We'll probably play him in a slightly different role than we've seen ... he's gone to the top of the order in recent times, so batting higher up and I think there's still competition for places.

"We'll work through to a 15 and give ourselves as many options in that 15 to negate what the West Indies surfaces will challenge us with."

Marsh admitted he'd set the hares racing on the likelihood of Smith missing that tournament with his comments earlier in the week.

"I understand that it always raises eyebrows when Steve Smith gets left out of the team," he said.

"But we're certainly building towards the World Cup and we'll give lots of guys different opportunities over the next few games. So he's one of them."

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