England seamer Stuart Broad has told Steve Smith that there will be more of the same brutal bowling when he returns to the Ashes fold this week.
The Australian batsman missed his side’s dramatic one-wicket defeat at Headingley as a result of the concussion he suffered after a bouncer from Broad’s bowling partner, Jofra Archer, in the second Test at Lord’s.
It’s unlikely that Smith ever believed he would receive a warm welcome back from England, but Broad’s words will be a reminder of what to expect at Old Trafford.
Speaking after training, Broad said: “It was a nasty hit, wasn’t it? First thing, it’s great Steve is OK and coming back into Test cricket but Test cricket is a brutal sport where countries go hell for leather against each other. I’m sure when Steve comes in, Jofra will be in Joe Root’s ear wanting the ball, no doubt about that.
“It was a really tasty bit of cricket at Lord’s. Smith was on 80, playing beautifully, and Jofra went from 84mph to 95mph. He was really charging in. That sort of cricket is awesome to watch on the telly or from the stands but when you’re stood at mid-on, it’s pretty special. Hopefully we can have a battle like that again.
“The dream is someone nicks him off first ball and Jofra doesn’t get to bowl at him but he doesn’t average 60-odd for nothing. There will be a period in this game where those two come together again and – touch wood – I’m on the pitch to view it.”
It’s now three weeks since Smith was struck on the neck by Archer. Before the hit, the batsman had been in exceptional form in the series, averaging 126 and scoring more runs than anyone (378), despite missing the last Test.
Smith will return in place of Usman Khawaja, who has been left out the 12-man squad, having averaged just 20.33 across his six innings. Marnus Labuschagne, who came in for Smith after his injury, retains his place after three impressive half-centuries. In attack, Mitchell Starc is recalled to the side.
England, on the other hand, have shuffled their order, with Joe Denly and Jason Roy swapping roles. The explosive Roy has struggled opening so far, averaging 9.5, so will come in at four, with Denly moving up the batting to replace him.
They will continue to be without James Anderson, who was ruled out of the remainder of the series after failing to recover from the calf injury that limited him in the first Test, his only Ashes appearance this summer.
With no Anderson – England’s leading wicket taker – it will fall to Broad and Archer again to lead the attack.
The series is poised at 1-1, with two Tests left to play, and both sides showing frailties, particularly with the bat. Smith, however, has been in majestic form and his return is a huge boost for the visitors.
Australia coach Justin Langer said: “When you get hit, there’s always a little voice on your shoulder. I also know about Steve Smith and the really good players, you’ve got to have strategies to score runs and not get out – it’s the same to not get hit.
“He works the game out better than anyone I’ve ever met in my life. He would’ve thought long and hard about it. If anyone’s going to get over any little demons, it’ll be Steven.”
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