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Stranger things at Edgbaston, where sneaky Steve Smith's the arch-villain

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When Steve Smith reached his milestone 50th and 100th runs at Edgbaston on Thursday, and when he was out after one of the great innings in Ashes history, a funny thing happened. Sections of the crowd in the Eric Hollies Stand, England cricket’s version of the MCG's Bay 13, booed their little red-and-white hearts out.

That wasn’t the funny thing. The funny thing was that after they had booed him for six or seven seconds, thousands of those very same people joined the prolonged applause to recognise an achievement in the face of several kinds of adversity, one of which they themselves had generated.

Steve Smith was widely cheered for his incredible knock - eventually.Credit:PA

Fair play - you cheat! - fair play.

People are strange, when you’re a stranger. Jim Morrison nailed it. Nobody could have felt more foreign and maligned in Birmingham than Steve Smith, but then people can be foreign to themselves. Smith might himself have reflected on the apparent contradiction among the fans, if he had not been preoccupied with touching thigh pad, box, helmet, pad flap and other pad flap in the correct order. People are strange.

Among English crowds, there is a clear hierarchy in perceptions of Australian villainy and it is different from our own. When Cameron Bancroft, David Warner and Smith appear, there is a crescendo in the volume of the booing. Bancroft, the one who actually used sandpaper on the ball in Cape Town, barely registers. That would be the same in Australia. He was the easily-led junior.

But where the Australian consensus holds Warner as Doctor Evil in the fiendish plot and Smith merely the hapless captain too weak to stop him, in England it is Smith who has the role of the arch-villain – if the strength of booing is anything to go........

© The Age