(Australian Associated Press)
Steve Smith stands on the cusp of equalling a century-old record as Australia continue their quest for an Ashes whitewash in the fourth Test.
A win in the Sydney Test, which begins on Wednesday, and a victory in Hobart would allow Smith, 32, to draw level with Clem Hill and Warwick Armstrong’s long-standing record for most Ashes wins on home soil (15).
Hill last played for Australia in 1911, while Armstrong’s final Test was in 1921.
Smith and Nathan Lyon, who figured in the 5-0 drubbing of 2013-14, can join Michael Clarke by featuring in two Ashes whitewashes.
They are odds on to achieve that feat given England’s tactical ineptitude and ever-changing line-ups.
But the vice-captain said he had no intention of allowing Australia to drop their guard.
“The guys are in a really good place and we’ve played some really good cricket throughout,” Smith said.
“We’re still a young side building together as a group and we want to get better as a team.
“While we’ve got the foot on the throat so to speak, we want to continue that momentum and have a good week out here.
“It’s nice to have wrapped it up in three, that takes the pressure off but we want to keep being relentless and ruthless and keep winning games of cricket.”
After Victorian debutant Scott Boland inflicted more misery on England to clinch the series with a stunning six-wicket haul in the visitors’ second innings in Melbourne, Australia’s bowling line-up could be about to get even stronger.
Despite a side strain keeping him out of the Adelaide and Melbourne Tests, Josh Hazlewood looked in fine fettle during a nets session.
Mitchell Starc was also put through his paces and may feature after the shortness of the Melbourne Test lessened any possible need for him to receive a rest in Sydney.
Hazlewood bowled to Smith on Monday and the vice-captain was confident the quick was back in the groove.
“The ball seemed to be coming through quite nicely,” Smith said.
“I’m not sure how he pulled up or how he’s going. I’m sure we’ll find out in the next day or so. I know the guys have a lot of trust in him to make the right decision.
“He knows his body better than anybody, he’s played a lot of cricket and we’ve got a lot of faith in Josh in whatever he wants to do.”
The other question Australian selectors must answer is whether they opt for another spinner, namely Mitchell Swepson, to assist Lyon.
But with rain forecast and a rather grassy wicket on offer, Smith said the surface may favour Australia’s pace attack better.
“Looking at this wicket there seems to be a fair amount of grass,” he added.
“I dare say it won’t take too much spin late in the game, which is the old traditional SCG we’re used to seeing and which I would love to see, personally.”