Ashes third Test preview: Steve Smith out and more to follow in bouncer battle?
Australia coach Justin Langer is confident his players can step up at Headingley
Ashes third Test: England vs. Australia
- When: 22-26 August
- Where: Headingley, Leeds
- Start time: 11am (daily)
- TV coverage: live on Sky Sports, highlights on Channel 5
- Radio coverage: BBC Sport
- Series guide
- Australia lead the series 1-0
On the same day he moved up to second in the International Cricket Council (ICC) batting rankings, Australia’s Steve Smith was stood down from the third Ashes Test by the team’s doctors.
The concussion that he suffered at Lord’s on Saturday, when he was hit in the neck by a short ball from England paceman Jofra Archer, means that the outstanding batsman of the series will be missing from Headingley when the third Test starts tomorrow.
The Australians hope he will be fit for the fourth Test, which starts on 4 September at Old Trafford in Manchester.
It’s the news that Australia were expecting but it doesn’t make Smith’s absence any easier to take given that his 378 runs have helped the tourists take a 1-0 lead in the five-Test rubber.
Just one win away from retaining the Ashes, the Aussies are expected to replace Smith with Marnus Labuschagne, who impressed in making 59 at Lord’s as a concussion substitute.
“It was pretty simple really, when we followed the protocols, he was probably a couple of days off being fit to be selected,” said Australia head coach Justin Langer.
“At the end of the day it was really a no-brainer, he felt a bit better [on Monday] but he is not going to have time enough to tick off everything he needs to do to be ready to play.”
Aussies are in Archer’s sights
Smith, who has scored two centuries and 92 in three innings against England this summer, is now second on the ICC list, just nine ranking points behind India’s Virat Kohli, having risen above New Zealand captain Kane Williamson in the latest update.
His quality is there for all to see, and how Australia react to his absence, particularly with Archer in such menacing form, is a question haunting Langer.
“You take your best players out it always has an impact, we have got to make sure that all the other guys, our senior players and our younger players all step up and fill what are almost unfillable shoes,” he said.
“We talked the whole time about squad mentality and being ready and when things come up like... they always do in this game… guys are ready to step up and I’m confident they will do that.”
On the comeback trail
England will point to the fact that they are without arguably their key man, Jimmy Anderson, who succumbed to a calf injury after bowling four overs in the first Test at Edgbaston.
His continued absence - The Guardian says that the swing bowler is “trying to prove his fitness by playing for Lancashire’s second XI this week” - has been offset by Archer, who poses a different threat to the Australian batsmen.
Asked if he would meet fire with fire by subjecting England to a barrage of bouncers, Langer replied in the negative.
“We know what our plans are to beat England,” Langer told reporters. “What we’re not going to do is get caught up in an emotional battle of who’s going to bowl the quickest bouncers.
“We’re here to win the Test match, not to see how many helmets we can hit.”
That didn’t appear to be the case at a net session on Tuesday, reports the Aussie press, with the tourists’ pacemen testing out their own batsmen with a “barrage of bouncers”, one of which from Mitchell Starc struck Labuschagne on the grill of his helmet.
Starc, the most aggressive Aussie bowler, wasn’t selected for the first two Tests but it’s believed he could be brought in for Headingley in order to rough up the English batsmen.
Pressure on Warner
Whatever bowling line-up Langer selects will be strong, which can’t be said of the batting.
Smith apart, there’s been little consistency from the Australians and Langer desperately needs David Warner to come good at the top of the order having scored 18 runs in four innings to date.
“I expect [a lot] out of David every time he plays, whether Steve Smith is playing or not playing,” said Langer.
“We expect it of all our senior players. He looked really sharp in the nets today. He’ll be hungry. So don’t write off David Warner.”
Roy passes concussion test
England opening batsman Jason Roy has been cleared to play at Headingley after passing a concussion test. The 29-year-old was struck during a net session on Tuesday.
England Ashes squad
- Joe Root (captain), Ben Stokes (vice-captain), Jofra Archer, Jonny Bairstow (wicketkeeper), Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Jos Buttler, Sam Curran, Joe Denly, Jack Leach, Jason Roy, Chris Woakes
- Injuries: James Anderson (out of third Test); Olly Stone (out of third Test)
Australia Ashes squad
- Tim Paine (captain), Cameron Bancroft, Patrick Cummins, Marcus Harris, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Michael Neser, James Pattinson, Peter Siddle, Mitchell Starc, Matthew Wade, David Warner
- Injuries: Steve Smith (out of third Test)