Smith hopes diminished as third Test approaches
Aussie batter 'back to his old self' on team bus ride to northern city but not fit enough to play in the third Test
Sam Ferris in Leeds
20 August 2019, 03:30 AM AEST
Steve Smith has been ruled out of the third Ashes Test in Leeds having failed to recover in time from the concussion he sustained at Lord's.
Coach Justin Langer confirmed the news two days out from the third Test on a cold Tuesday morning at Headingley, with Smith appearing understandably downbeat around his teammates.
As the squad huddle disbanded to begin practice, Smith received a pat on the shoulder from vice-captain Pat Cummins before Langer wrapped his arm around the right-hander as the squad warmed up without him.
Langer and Smith then walked out to the middle to inspect the pitch as the rest of the group limbered up and jogged laps around the outfield.
Team doctor Richard Saw was seen chatting to Smith near the centre square and he had the final say on Smith's involvement in the match, as per Cricket Australia's concussion protocols. Smith requires the approval of Dr Saw before he can resume playing.
"When we followed the protocols he was probably a couple of days off being fit to be selected," said Langer at a press conference.
"It was really a no-brainer. He felt a bit better yesterday but he's not going to have enough time to tick off everything he's got to do.
"It's not unlike England losing James Anderson. He's arguably their best bowler and we're going to lose arguably our best batsman for this Test match.
"It is always a blow. No doubt about that. When you take your best players out it always has an impact.
"We have to make sure our senior players and the younger guys step up and fill what are almost unfillable shoes because he's the best player in the world."
Smith was in a race against time to be fit for the third Test after he was struck by a searing Jofra Archer bouncer on day four of the Lord's Test.
Smith was the first player in international cricket to be substituted out of a match following the scary blow to the neck from Archer.
While he was keen to bat on following the blow, Dr Saw removed Smith from play as a precaution, and after passing a series of concussion tests, resumed his innings.
But after waking up groggy and with a headache on the morning of day five, Smith was subbed out for Queensland's Manus Labuschagne, who starred on Sunday with 59 to ensure Australia drew the second Test and preserved their 1-0 series lead.
Labuschagne appears to be the favourite to take Smith's place in the XI for the clash in Leeds.
Smith now has two weeks to be ready for the fourth Test in Manchester, which starts on September 4, with a three-day tour match in Derby from August 29-31.
For Smith to have been cleared to play in Leeds he would have needed to show no symptoms of concussion, gradually return to full activity, pass routine concussion assessments and face fast bowling in the nets to ensure his reaction speeds had not waned.
Smith has been in imperious form during the Ashes, scoring 142, 144 and 92 in his three innings so far.
His prolific form has seen him rise to No.2 in the ICC Test batting rankings, just nine rating points behind India captain Virat Kohli.
While he watched his teammates train, Smith enjoyed a long chat with former Australia captain Mark Taylor, who captained Australia to a win at Headingley in 1997.
Australia vice-captain Travis Head says Steve Smith is back to his old self and remains hopeful of taking part in the third Ashes Test at Headingley as he recovers from the concussion he sustained at Lord's.
The Australians made the journey from London to Leeds on Monday with Smith in good spirits after suffering delayed concussion from being hit by a ferocious Jofra Archer bouncer that led to him being subbed out of the second Test.
"I saw him this morning and he said he was feeling much better so that is a positive," Head said in Leeds on Monday.
"But again, I think the doc (team doctor Richard Saw) has been doing a fantastic job so far on tour with everyone. (Saw) has had a busy week and I know he was looking after (Smith) pretty well, he is in good hands.
"Hopefully, in the next couple of days he is able to rest up and comes good and it is just that process he has to go through.
"But he seemed in good spirits today on the bus, he is playing cards again and is himself. It was good to see."
Smith, who is being closely monitored by Saw, said on Sunday he must train with his teammates, face and handle fast bowling in the nets and pass routine concussion tests if he is to be cleared fit to play the third Test.
Australia are set to hold a full training session Tuesday evening Australian time at Headingley where Smith could face the express pace of Mitch Starc and James Pattinson as they push for a Test recall, if Saw permits it.
The visitors are then scheduled to hold an optional practice on match eve at the ground, which Smith almost always attends to satiate his insatiable craving for hitting cricket balls.
How Smith fares in those two practice sessions will be key in determining whether he will play at Leeds, with the final decision coming down to Saw as the team's medical officer, as per Cricket Australia's concussion protocols.
Former Australia captain Steve Waugh was in the Lord's away dressing room during Archer's blistering eight-over spell during which Smith was felled, trying to reassure the tailenders it was not as dangerous as it looked out in the middle.
But the sight of Smith being struck and dropping to the turf stunned Waugh, the dressing room and the packed crowd at Lord's.
"It was scary," Waugh said on the latest episode of The Unplayable Podcast. "Before that I was trying to calm down Nathan Lyon who was sweating up a bit watching proceedings and having a bit of a laugh then all of a sudden that happened and everyone was a bit somber after that.
"It looked ugly and it was awkward. When he hit the ground everyone held their breath for a couple of seconds (hoping) he was OK.
"It was a scary moment because he just got hit in a really bad position and went down heavily.
"And for the guys who have been involved in what happened before it was tough for them to watch."
Smith's impact on the Test team is difficult to quantify, but in the three Australian innings with him in the line-up this series the right-hander has scored 37 per cent of the visitors' runs.
It is why England would have liked their chances of victory on Sunday with Smith missing from the XI, but his concussion replacement Marnus Labuschagne was up for the challenge, scoring 59 and along with Head, who posted an unbeaten 42, went a long way to ensuring the visitors secured a draw to preserve their 1-0 series advantage.
The day five effort by the batting group, sans Smith, gives Head the confidence the Australians can cope if the world's No.2 Test batsmen is sidelined for the Leeds clash.
"(Smith) is obviously in great nick and is playing beautifully at the minute, so hopefully he comes good," Head said.
"But obviously Marnus came in and played beautifully, he has been fantastic over here in the county season, got a lot of hundreds.
"Wadey (No.6 Matt Wade) got a hundred at Edgbaston so I think we have got guys who are in form.
"I think it showed without Steve (on Sunday) we were able to get the job done, which is a positive.
"But we know we have got guys who are in form and playing well, so if that is the case in a few days' time it will be great to still have (Smith) and hopefully, he comes good but I think we have got the batting in the sheds that can do the job."
2019 Qantas Ashes Tour of England
Australia squad: Tim Paine (c), Cameron Bancroft, Pat Cummins, Marcus Harris, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Michael Neser, James Pattinson, Peter Siddle, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Matthew Wade, David Warner.
England squad: Joe Root (c), Moeen Ali, Jimmy Anderson, Jofra Archer, Jonny Bairstow, Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Jos Buttler, Sam Curran, Joe Denly, Jason Roy, Ben Stokes (vc), Olly Stone, Chris Woakes.
First Test: Australia beat England by 251 runs at Edgbaston
Second Test: Match drawn at Lord's
Third Test: August 22-26, Headingley
Tour match: Australians v Derbyshire, August 29-31
Fourth Test: September 4-8, Old Trafford
Fifth Test: September 12-16, The Oval