Australia fast bowler James Pattinson has backed Steve Smith to once again rescue his team with the bat, with the No.4 standing unbeaten on 46 at the end of third day's play at Edgbaston.
Smith, like he has so often over his illustrious Test career, has stood out as Australia's mainstay with the bat in the match. After scoring 144 in the first innings - more than half of the team total of 284 - Smith once again shouldered responsibility, with an unbeaten 46, after walking in at 27/2 in the second innings. Now, with Australia's hopes once again lying with the former captain, Pattinson praised the 30-year old, saying his presence "lifts the group".
I was talking to the press before about great players and how they always stand up when you need them. And I think he's done that in this game.
"Look, he's a fantastic player," he said at the end of day's play. "I was talking to the press before about great players and how they always stand up when you need them. And I think he's done that in this game. Without him, we would be in a bit of trouble.
"He's been copping a bit from the crowd, which has amused a lot of people, but to his credit, he just gets on with it. He's someone who lifts the group when he's out there."
Australia's hopes of limiting England to a small lead were dented by a 65-run stand for the ninth wicket between Chris Woakes and Stuart Broad. They were eventually bowled out for 374 and Pattinson, who finished with figures of 2/82, seemed satisfied with the overall performance.
"If they got another strong partnership and still four or five down, and if they’d gone in front by 150-160, it would have been pretty hard to come back from. I know I was sitting last night thinking, if we can manage to keep them to an 80-run lead, we’ll be right in the game, considering we bat well."
Australia were reduced to 75/3 in the final session, still trailing England by 15 runs. An unbeaten 49-run stand between Smith and Travis Head then drove the visiting team into the lead, ensuring that they could yet make a game out of this Test. Australia went into stumps at 124/3 and Pattinson backed the duo to play a long innings to take his team to a commanding position.
"We lost a couple of wickets tonight, but we kept the runs ticking. So we have got a little bit of a lead today, and tomorrow the message is for the boys to just try and bat as long as we can and score as many runs as possible.
"Obviously, the ball is bit older now, over 25 overs. Hopefully, it will stop doing as much and Smudge is there. Smithey’s batting unbelievably and it looks like he’s taken off from the first innings. Travis as well. I think those players will be trying to bat as long as possible."
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