After Steve Smith crushed any doubts over his technique with a maiden double century at Lord’s, the man who tormented England 18 months ago leapt to his defence, saying the criticism was always “absolute rubbish”.
Before a ball was spun or swung this Ashes, current and former England cricketers lined up to stick the boot into Australia’s newly-minted No.1-ranked batsman in the world.
Smith had made light work of India at home and the West Indies away, averaging an extraordinary 153 in first innings knocks since the start of the Australian summer.
It wasn’t enough to impress former England offspinner Graeme Swann, who retired midway through the 2013-14 Ashes whitewash, nor current England paceman Stuart Broad.
Both decided Smith’s unusual technique would be brought undone by English conditions, the swinging ball and a move up the order to No.3.
“There was a lot of talk about Steve not being able to bat in these conditions, which I thought was absolute rubbish in the first place,” Johnson said after Smith’s magnificent 215 put Australia in a commanding position on Friday.
“He’s done it in so many different conditions around the world and was No.1 in the world.
“The way he played, it was such a mature innings It was probably the best I’ve seen him play a cricket innings.”
Swann and Broad were both at it again on Friday.
“You think these are typical English conditions? More like India old boy,” Swann tweeted in response to a query about Smith’s knock.
“How did he go last week when it was swinging?”
Swann’s tweets noticeably dried up as Smith passed 150 and then, for the first time, 200 – becoming the first Australian since Jason Gillespie to score a double century overseas.
But Broad wasn’t finished, and appeared to sing from the same hymn sheet as his former teammate.
“Well these are more Indian conditions than English conditions, aren’t they?” Broad beamed.
“He’s obviously a fantastic player, (but) if we get Steve against the new Dukes ball it’s the best time to get any batsman out.
“Unfortunately we didn’t make a breakthrough early in the first innings.”