Steve Smith silences the doubters after super knock as Australia narrowly lost to West Indies at the Gabba

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Shamar Joseph rightly stole the headlines for his extraordinary debut Test matches in the West Indies’ 1-1 series draw with Australia that no one saw coming.

But it so easily could have been a very different story, with Steve Smith instead being heralded far and wide among cricket fans.

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In the end, Joseph was named player of the match and series, underlined by his seven-wicket haul on Sunday as he bowled the West Indies to a drought-breaking win on Aussie soil.

Stranded at the other end when Joseph clean bowled Josh Hazlewood to win the match was a 34-year-old veteran who could have justifiably lifted a middle finger towards his critics.

Smith came under fire for putting his hand up to replace Dave Warner as opener in the Australian Test side.

For long periods it seemed likely one of Cameron Bancroft, Matt Renshaw or Marcus Harris would get another opportunity atop the order before Smith belatedly nominated himself for the role.

His form had been slightly down of late, by his standards anyway, and the move was not embraced by all, especially some prominent critics in Australia’s west.

Returns of 12 and 11 in Adelaide, the second dig when Australia chased just 26 for victory, gave little away about his ability to adjust to a role he had never filled in his life.

Then six from six balls in the first innings at the Gabba before he was trapped lbw had those doubts getting a little louder.

Over the weekend, however, Smith reminded everyone of exactly who he is.

He batted superbly for 91 of Australia’s 207 runs, surviving nightmare conditions on Saturday night and then proving the only man capable of repelling Joseph on Sunday as he did everything he could to guide the hosts to victory.

It left the critics with zero fodder over Smith’s new role at such a late stage of his career.

“The way (Smith) performed in this Test match has confirmed that you did make the right decision in terms of shuffling the order?” Isa Guha asked Pat Cummins on Fox Cricket after the second Test defeat.

“I don’t think we’re surprised,” he replied. “I’ve seen it for 15 years from Smithy.

“He was fantastic and almost dragged us single-handedly over the line in the end, so I thought he was fantastic.”

There have been over 2000 Test matches played in all of Test history and Smith’s effort in the second innings was just the 57th in which a batter has carried their bat.

It’s the first since New Zealand’s Tom Latham in 2018 and he’s the first Australian to do it since Warner in 2011.

He is also just the 12th Aussie opener to carry their bat, a feat Bill Woodfull and Bill Lawry achieved twice.

But it was all in vain as Hazlewood had his off-stump uprooted, sparking pandemonium from the visitors.

Cummins could only pay his respects to the efforts of the West Indies, who recorded a Test victory in Australia for the first time since a win in Perth way back in 1997.

“We were pretty confident coming into today,” he said. “I thought our efforts yesterday were really good to have a low total, two-hundred-odd, I thought was achievable.

“But they had different ideas. They bowled beautifully and unfortunately it was a bridge too far.”

The Aussies next face a two-Test series against New Zealand in February and March, when Cummins’ troops need to regroup from a drawn series that took everyone by surprise.

“I think we’ve all played enough to know this game humbles you pretty quickly, even when you’re thinking you’re on top of the world,” Cummins said.

“You start from 0-0 in each game. I thought the West Indies were fantastic, they outplayed us this week. Sometimes you learn lessons the hard way.

“The good thing is there’s always another game around the corner.

“Our Test group get about a month off before we go over (to New Zealand). Any away tour is going to be tough, so we’re looking forward to that one.”

And there won’t be any discussion over who is opening the batting.