England v Australia ODIs - Men's
Smith in doubt after 'rusty' net session on match eve
Australia's coach says his star player 'looked a bit rusty' in his return to the nets and is far from certain to play the third ODI against England
Martin Smith & Louis Cameron
16 September 2020, 08:18 AM AEST
Coach Justin Langer has cast doubt over Steve Smith's return for Australia's series-deciding ODI against England, revealing the star batsman 'still looked a bit rusty' in his return to the nets early on Wednesday morning (AEST).
Smith, a notoriously dedicated trainer, ducked into a bouncer that kept low on a worn pitch in the Old Trafford nets last week while facing throw downs near the end of a long batting session.
While he has passed multiple concussion tests since then, the star batsman - who became Test cricket's first concussion substitute last year during a memorable Ashes duel with Jofra Archer - has been held back from the first two ODIs as a precaution.
Speaking on Tuesday night AEST, before Smith batted in the nets at Old Trafford, Langer said the right-hander was "definitely tracking in the right direction" to be cleared to play in the final match of the series.
But the coach struck a far less optimistic tone after watching Smith at training.
"He had a hit today and he still looks a bit rusty, to be honest," Langer told SEN.
"We'll give him until the last moment to play, but I'm not as confident now as I was 24 hours ago."
Marcus Stoinis, who has made 43 and 9 batting in Smith's No.3 spot in the first two ODIs, would appear the most likely man to make way for the former captain if he returns.
Despite the series being on the line, Langer said the team’s medical staff will have no hesitation in ruling Smith out of the match if he wasn’t ready to play.
"If he doesn't come up again, we'll keep his - like all of our players - health in mind,” he said.
"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 with (England's preceding series against) Pakistan.
"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."
Langer's admitted his mind started to drift towards bringing in fresh faces for the final game of the tour when Australia were cruising towards what would have been a series-clinching victory on Sunday.
He was quickly brought back to earth as Australia, chasing 232, collapsed from 2-144 to lose their final eight wickets for 63 runs.
While Langer praised the reserve members of his extended 21-man squad (six of whom have not played a game), he stressed the Aussies will select a full-strength XI for the third ODI.
"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."
2020 Tour of England
Australia's T20 and ODI squad: Aaron Finch (c), Sean Abbott, Ashton Agar, Alex Carey, Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Riley Meredith, Josh Philippe, Daniel Sams, Kane Richardson, Steven Smith, Mitchell Starc, Marcus Stoinis, Andrew Tye, Matthew Wade, David Warner, Adam Zampa
England T20I squad: Eoin Morgan (c), Moeen Ali, Jofra Archer, Jonathan Bairstow, Tom Banton, Sam Billings, Jos Buttler, Sam Curran, Tom Curran, Joe Denly, Chris Jordan, Dawid Malan, Adil Rashid, Mark Wood. Reserves: Liam Livingstone, Saqib Mahmood
England ODI squad: Eoin Morgan (c), Moeen Ali, Jofra Archer, Jonathan Bairstow, Tom Banton, Sam Billings, Jos Buttler, Sam Curran, Tom Curran, Adil Rashid, Joe Root, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood. Reserves: Joe Denly, Saqib Mahmood