Smith cops shocker as ODI series slips away
STEVE Smith was left fuming after his dismissal from a controversial catch consigned Australia to a chastening series defeat to England that has further exposed the alarm engulfing the one-day team.
The Australia captain called for the abolishment of soft-signal calls from umpires for low catches after a DRS howler ruled him out at the key moment of Australia's desperate run-chase at the SCG - and Smith found an unlikely ally in former England great Kevin Pietersen.
Replays appeared to show a Smith (45 off 66) edge to wicketkeeper Jos Buttler caught some turf on its way into the gloves, with former Test captain Mark Taylor adamant there was enough evidence for the third umpire to overturn a soft signal of 'out' from on-field officials.
Smith said: "It's irrelevant what I think, it got given out so I had to walk off the field."
"I'm not sure I'm a big fan of the ruling with the soft signal. That's obviously the rule at the moment and it's hard to overturn anything.
"We've seen a few this summer that have been pretty similar and if the fielder goes up and actually celebrates they usually get given out and if you're a bit apprehensive of what's happened they normally get given not out.
"It's hard for them to overturn the decision. I'd actually like for the third umpire to have to make the decision whether it's out or not."
Buttler said he was in no doubt he'd taken the catch cleanly.
"I was pretty sure it was out. I think any wicket keeper would tell you if you get your fingers underneath it," he said.
"It always looks a bit either way on TV but for me it was out."
However, the contentious moment that prompted a furious reaction from the skipper as he trudged off the field doesn't change the fact Australia are now 3-0 down and their preparations for a World Cup defence in 2019 are now in a state of chaos.
Marcus Stoinis smashed a gallant half century to increase his personal stocks in the ODI set-up, but in the end Australia fell 16 runs short of England's 6-302 after the visitors - sent in to bat by Smith - hammered 102 runs in their last 10 overs.
At the forefront of the 50-over game when they lifted the Cup at the MCG three years ago, Australia are now being schooled by an England side that is in prime position to hand out a humiliating 5-0 whitewash away from home.
Australia has lost their way tactically and constant chopping and changing of personnel means they are yet to settle on a combination that can match it with the best teams.
The decision to axe Glenn Maxwell and call in Cameron White has proven disastrous.
White made 17 after being promoted to No.3 and also dropped a sitter of a catch.
The 34-year-old who never thought he would be picked for Australia again has not looked comfortable in his two matches back from the wilderness.
Australia's run chase was ahead of the game at 4-181 with 16 overs remaining when Smith was given his marching orders following Buttler's disputed catch.
Buttler had earlier smashed an unbeaten 100, brought up from the last ball of England's innings.
Buttler had no hesitation claiming the catch and Smith's initial reaction was to start walking off the field as umpires convened and gave a soft call of 'out' before referring the final decision upstairs.
Needing conclusive proof to overturn the on-field decision, the third umpire Kumar Dharmasena decided to back in his umpires, despite replays appearing to show the ball touching turf as it bobbled in Buttler's glove.
Smith's initial feeling he was out changed immediately after viewing replays and he let his dismay be known as he shook his head and cursed his way back to the pavilion.
Pietersen said the soft-dismissal system was a problem in the game that needed to be addressed.
"There's enough there for me (evidence to overturn). I'm not sure about this soft signal. Get rid of the soft signal," said Pietersen.
"We've got enough technology and broadcast out there we should be able to make decisions off the camera and take the decisions away. The soft signal, I'm not having the soft signal. It's a very, very big passage of play that."
Taylor said he supported the soft-signal but was adamant Smith should have been given not out.
"Personally I would have given that not out. There's enough doubt for me."
Aaron Finch (62 off 53) and Mitchell Marsh (55 from 66) also fired but no one was able to go on with the job like Buttler (100 not out off 83) and Chris Woakes (53 not out off 36) were able to do so spectacularly for England when they were in all sorts of trouble at 6-189 with 12 overs left.
Australia reinstalled their spinner Adam Zampa, and the leggie justified his selection with a stunning wrong-un that bamboozled England opener Jonny Bairstow and cleaned up his stumps.
Between them, Buttler and Woakes hammered 11 fours and six sixes and showed just how versatile their batting line-up can be.
Australia's catching was terrible, as Smith and Zampa put down tough chances and White grassed an absolute sitter off Moeen Ali.
Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins made a difference though in their return to the fold, but Mitchell Starc went wicketless.