Australia captain Tim Paine has said that it is still too early to tell as to whether star batsman Steve Smith will be available for the third Ashes Test beginning from Thursday at Headingley.
Smith was hit on the neck below his left ear on Day 4 of the second Test at Lord’s by a short delivery from England’s debutant pacer Jofra Archer and had to subsequently retire hurt while he was on 80.
He returned to the crease after the fall of the next wicket but never looked in as much control as he was before the blow or in the two innings he played at Edgbaston in the first Test. Smith was eventually dismissed on 92 and Paine said that the prolific batsman “deteriorated overnight” because of which he did not take the field on Day 5.
“Really nasty knock, he felt okay yesterday, but woke up not feeling at his best so the decision was made to leave him out,” said Paine in the post-match presentation. “Steve passed all his tests, he deteriorated overnight, he re-tested, they weren’t as good this morning, and the professionals made that call. He’ll need to improve (to play at Headingley) but too early to tell.”
Australia decided on Marnus Labuschagne to be the concussion substitute for Smith which was a first in Test cricket and he was clocked on his helmet grill by a 147.5kph snorter from Archer. But the 25-year-old was able to get back up immediately and ended up scoring a 100-ball 59 which helped Australia stave out a draw.
“Really pleasing to see him do that,” said Paine on the way Labuschagne recovered and ultimately denied the English bowlers for much of the day. “To get 150kph in the face and then stand up was really pleasing to see.”
Paine also said that the team will be looking to formulate plans to counter the threat posed by Archer, whose aggressive spells helped England wrestle control of the Test. “We’ve seen Jofra in Australia for a few years, we know the package he brings to the table. It’s up to us as a team to formulate some plans,” said Paine.