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Paine Smith

'Huge shoes to fill' - Root and Paine ponder Steve Smith absence

Eng v Aus feature

Steve Smith has starred so far in the ongoing men’s Ashes series, but will be absent from the third Test due to concussion.

He scored twin centuries in Australia’s first Test victory, but in the course of making 92 in the drawn second Test, he was hit on the back of the head below the helmet by a bouncer from Jofra Archer and forced to retire hurt.

Though he didn’t show immediate signs of ill effects, Smith woke up the next morning with a headache, and subsequent examinations ruled him out of the remainder of the Test, and the upcoming game at Headingley. Marnus Labuschagne, who came in as Test cricket’s first concussion substitute at Lord’s and made a half-century, is set to replace him in the XI, but Australia captain Tim Paine has said it will take a group effort to fill Smith’s boots.

Labuschagne will likely replace Smith in Australia's XI
Labuschagne will likely replace Smith in Australia's XI

“We do it as a team,” he told reporters at Headingley. “There aren’t too many guys that have averaged higher than Steve in Test cricket. Clearly they are huge shoes to fill and we don’t put all that pressure on Marnus.

“Marnus comes in to play a role in our team and it’s up to everyone else, particularly our senior players, to make sure we give that little bit more output and cover Steve.”

For England, Smith’s absence, along with the momentum gained from their performance at Lord’s, gives them hope of drawing level in the series at Leeds, but home captain Joe Root said the plan is never to injure an opponent.

Smith's injury presents England with an opportunity
Smith's injury presents England with an opportunity

 “When you play against someone of his quality, you’re trying to find a number of different ways of getting him out,” he said. “I felt like the way that Jofra bowled in that spell made for great cricket. It was great to be on the field being a part of that, and we felt like we were creating chances all the time, but you never want to see someone go off injured. For him to miss this game, there was a lot of concern in our dressing room for his health, and it’s great to see that he’s up and about and he’s fine.

“We had the challenge of Jimmy going down four overs into a Test match and had to manage that without a replacement. You get these swings within a big series like this, and when you get the opportunity you’ve got to jump on it. There’ll be huge shoes to fill for whoever comes in for him in Australia’s batting line-up, and we’ve got to make sure that we keep looking to exploit their techniques on these wickets.”

Whatever happens, someone else will take centre-stage at Headingley.

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