Just a few hours after expressing his confidence over the participation of Steven Smith in the third ODI against England, which is scheduled on Wednesday (September 16), Australia coach Justin Langer said the star batsman is doubtful after looking “a bit rusty” in the net session on Tuesday.
Speaking to SEN Breakfast, Langer said: “In terms of Smithy, he had a hit today. He still looks a bit rusty to be honest. We’ll give him until the last moment to play but I’m not as confident now as I was 24 hours ago. “If he doesn’t come up again, we’ll keep his – like all of our players – health in mind.”
Smith was struck by a ball on his head during practice ahead of the opening one-dayer and he missed the first two games as a precaution despite passing multiple concussion tests. In his absence, Marcus Stoinis batted at No. 3 and scored 43 and 9 in the first two games. He’s likely to bat in the same position should Smith be left out for the third ODI.
“He was probably on his 30,000th ball and he probably had about two or three to go. The facilities over here are brilliant but they’re a bit worn because of so much traffic through them over the last few months. So one ball just didn’t quite get up and he ducked into it and it hit him on the side of the helmet. It was unfortunate, these things happen,” said Langer about the blow in the nets.
The ODI series is currently tied at 1-1, with Australia losing the second game after being in a position of strength when they had reduced England to 149 for 8. England managed to finish with a total of 231 and then bowled Australia out for 207 to level the series.
Had Australia won the second ODI and with it the series, there was a possibility of the reserves getting some game time in the last match but that appears unlikely with the series on the line now.
“When we were cruising in the last game, my mind was ticking over all sorts of opportunities, (thinking) ‘We might be able to give the (reserve) guys the last game,'” said Langer. “I would suggest the rivalry between England and Australia and how tight the T20 series and one-day series (have been), they probably won’t get the same opportunities they might have had the results gone differently.
“It’s a shame, but I’ve been consistent in saying from the start of the tour we’ll be picking our best team as much as we can, that’s the Australian way of doing things. But we’ve had eyes on them, we’ve seen what they’re like around the group, we’ve seen their talent, we’ve seen them in the practice games. It bodes well for the future.”
Need to handle pressure moments better – Maxwell
Meanwhile, the likely absence of Smith will leave Glenn Maxwell with the additional responsibility of taking care of the middle order. The all-rounder, who scored 77 in the first game and was dismissed for 1 in the second, said Australia were hoping to finish the series on a positive note and stressed on the need to handle the “pressure moments” better.
“We probably had chances in every game so far in this tour – to win games at different times – but as good sides do, England just kept on coming at us and kept keeping the pressure on. We just got to be able to deal with those pressure moments a little bit better and hopefully we can come out on the winning side,” Maxwell said.
Maxwell, who said that batting becomes difficult as the match progresses, was hopeful that Australia batting first and taking advantage of what is likely to be a fresh wicket on offer.
“We’re looking forward to the opportunity to probably get to bat in the last game. Hopefully on a new, fresh wicket we can really take advantage of the conditions. We played extremely well in game one to win that on a reasonably fresh wicket. Hopefully, we can do the same thing on this pitch as well.
“I think there’s a bit more shorter boundary on this side as well, with the wicket moving to the other side of the square. We’ve got a good opportunity to target that. It might be a little bit against the wind, there’ll be all those factors coming into the game as well – hitting into the wind to the long boundary or hitting against it to the short boundary. It should be interesting,” Maxwell said.