It was fitting that Steve Smith reached his maiden one-day century in Sharjah with Dean Jones, the scorer of one of Australian cricket’s most talked-about hundreds, looking on.
Jones’s 210 in the tied Test against India in Chennai in 1986 is an epic tale of courage and skill in conditions that were life-threatening.
And while Smith’s 101 was hardly on the same scale, the 25-year-old was still moved to describe the Sharjah heat as “remarkable”.
Smith’s 101 off 118 balls provided the backbone of Australia’s 8-255 before Mitchell Johnson (3-24) and spinners Nathan Lyon (2-33) and Glenn Maxwell (2-29) ripped through Pakistan for 162 all out.
Australia won the toss and Smith had come to the crease after Aaron Finch’s dismissal from the first ball of the series.
Battling temperatures in the high 30s, David Warner (43) and Smith added 86 for Australia’s second wicket before Warner became one of legspinner Shahid Afridi’s three victims.
Skipper George Bailey (18), Maxwell (21) and James Faulkner (11) all got starts in the middle order before Brad Haddin (23 not out) and Johnson (21) scored handy runs.
Afridi (3-46) made the key breakthrough to remove an exhausted Smith caught at long off at 6-216.
Jones applauded loudly and generously when Smith reached his hundred and wondered aloud at how many kilograms the NSW right-hander may have lost during his innings.
Smith told his media conference he was yet to check in with the fitness staff for a weigh-in.
“It was very hot,” Smith said.
“I don’t think I’ve changed my gloves that many times in my whole career, let alone just today. It was quite remarkable.”
Smith’s maiden hundred in his 39th ODI game lifts his average to 24.08 and he’s determined to hang onto the No.3 slot.
“For me it was just about batting time and for others to bat around me and hopefully take it as deep as possible,” he said.
“I’ve always said I like batting at number three and I want to take my opportunities there.
“Hopefully today’s just the start of that. Hopefully there’s a few more big scores in this series.”
Smith praised Australia’s bowling attack led by Johnson, Lyon and Maxwell.
“We thought the wicket would break up a little more later in the day and that turned out to be the case,” Smith said.
Left-arm spinner Xavier Doherty, a replacement for injured allrounder Mitchell Marsh, is expected to train with the squad on Thursday and push strongly for selection.
The three-match series continues with game two in Dubai on Friday.
Star spinner Saeed Ajmal’s chucking ban and injuries to fellow slow bowlers Raza Hasan and Mohammad Hafeez have unbalanced the side, skipper Misbah-ul-Haq said.
“We just need one good batting show and that could really get our confidence back,” he said.