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Aussies banking on Smith’s return

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Australia is hoping for the return of their own saviour in Steve Smith for the fourth Test at Old Trafford.

Steve Smith.

As England basked in an Ashes salvation led by all-rounder Ben Stokes at Headingley, Australia were left to hope for the return of their own saviour in Steve Smith for the fourth Test at Old Trafford.

Stokes was deservedly hailed for his heroic unbeaten 135 that secured a rousing one-wicket win to level the series at 1-1. In time, however, paceman Jofra Archer might be viewed as the man who turned the series on its head with a bouncer that left Smith floored at Lord’s and still dizzy at Leeds.

Smith’s concussion substitute Marnus Labuschagne did all that could have been asked of him, carving out a defiant pair of half-centuries at Headingley.

It may have been England’s abject first innings 67 that hogged the headlines early in the Test, but Australia had little to cheer in their own opening 179.

In the cold light of defeat and without Smith’s large shadow, Australia’s batsmen have nowhere to hide and most head to Old Trafford in dire form.

“One thing I do know is we’re not batting well enough at the moment,” coach Justin Langer said.

“I said at the start of the series that the team that bats best will win the Ashes. We’re certainly not at our best with our batting at the moment.”

Usman Khawaja’s total of 31 runs at Headingley leaves him with an average of 20.33 for the series. His is still comfortably better than opener David Warner’s 13.16, a mark flattered by his first innings 61 at Headingley.

Matthew Wade’s 110 in the Edgbaston opener now seems a distant memory, with a combined 40 runs in his four innings since.

Opener Marcus Harris, who replaced the jettisoned Cameron Bancroft, failed to make the most of his chance, scoring eight and 19 at Headingley, while grassing a tough chance that would have dismissed Stokes and secured Australia victory.

Wicketkeeper-captain Paine’s poor series with the bat continued as he managed 11 and a second innings duck.

Reuters