Patience ... Steve Smith hit 72 to get NSW out of trouble. Photo: Getty Images
THE transformation of Steve Smith continues and when word gets out to national selectors of his latest deeds he could be joining fellow Renaissance man Phillip Hughes on the plane to India next month.
The precociously talented youngster might still be stereotyped as a limited-overs slugger but on Friday he gave another indication why that assessment is now a long way off the mark with a priceless innings.
In a game where batsmen have seldom felt at ease on a spin-friendly Blacktown pitch, Smith batted for almost 3¼ hours for his 72, just days before the Test squad for India is announced. Moises Henriques, despite some nervous moments against Nathan Coulter-Nile early on, also prospered, impressing with a fluent 62 off 105 balls.
Smith's mature contribution settled heart rates in the Blues camp after a poor middle session and was a key reason why the hosts secured first innings points. The Blues will resume on day three on 6-263, a lead of 21.
Smith's innings, though rivalled late by Henriques, was the highlight of the day and is sure to occupy plenty of space in NSW state talent manager David Freedman's dossier to John Inverarity's selection panel, none of whom were present for this fixture.
Freedman's report is likely to be glowing in its endorsement of Smith, who is firming in the race with Usman Khawaja and Glenn Maxwell as possible replacements for Michael Hussey's slot in the Test line-up.
Of the 10 batsmen to have passed 20 in this game, only Smith and Henriques progressed to a half-century. Highlighting how difficult batting has been, Hussey failed to convert his start in WA's first innings.
While Smith did not murder WA's unheralded attack, the pitch - which offered turn to the spinners and variable bounce to all bowlers - was not conducive to fast scoring or dazzling strokeplay.
Instead it was a surface, not too dissimilar to what Australia might face on the subcontinent, where graft and perseverance is rewarded.
''You don't feel in the whole time, it's one of those wickets that it's hard to get used to the pace of,'' Smith said.
''The spin was quite hard. Ashton Agar was bowling a few arm balls and they were turning quite sharply.'' And the 23-year-old showed the patience and skill of a player who has clearly benefited from focusing on his batting in the past 12 months until he clipped a half-volley straight to mid-wicket.
Smith sweated on the bad balls from the Warriors and, when they came, was able to find the rope.
Also of importance, he showed plenty of urgency running between the wickets to turn over the strike, another ploy important in India. Smith can strengthen his case on the weekend if he can capitalise on conditions with his developing leg-spin.
Henriques, Smith's batting partner for much of the day, also did his chances of a debut Test tour no harm.
The all-rounder was intent on attacking the visitors and, though dropped on 14, made batting appear far easier than almost every other player in this game.
He shared a vital 72-run stand with Smith then added a further 46 with Steve O'Keefe to take NSW past WA's first innings of 242.
The Blues had earlier stumbled in the middle session when they lost four wickets, including Brad Haddin for 10, to lose the ascendancy handed to them by their bowlers.