Ashes 2019: Australia must fill Smith void as a team, says Paine

By Sports Desk August 21, 2019

Tim Paine wants Australia to fill the void left by Steve Smith as a team when they attempt to take an unassailable lead in the Ashes.

Australia can move 2-0 ahead and retain the urn with victory in the third Test at Headingley, which starts on Thursday.

However, they will have to do without talisman Smith, whose sensational series has been halted at least temporarily by a concussion he suffered when he was struck by a Jofra Archer delivery in the drawn second Test at Lord's.

Smith scored centuries in both innings in Australia's win at Edgbaston and made 92 at Lord's before being trapped lbw by Chris Woakes after returning following his head injury assessment.

He did not bat in the second innings and Marnus Labuschagne excelled as his concussion replacement, his 59 helping Australia save the match.

The first ball Labuschagne faced saw him struck by Archer, but he was composed thereafter and will take Smith's place after the former captain was ruled out.

Paine, though, does not want the burden of replacing Smith to be entirely on his shoulders.

"He's strange," Paine said of Labuschagne at a media conference. "He seems to enjoy getting hit on the head.

"We do it [replace Smith] as a team. Clearly, they're huge shoes to fill. We want our senior players to make sure we give that little bit more output, cover Steve the best we can."

Asked about Smith's reaction to his enforced absence, Paine replied: "He's disappointed obviously, but he along with the rest of the group understand why he isn't [playing].

"There's a strong medical process in place, Steve has to tick a lot of boxes [to make sure he's ready to play in the fourth Test]."

Much of the build-up to the match has focused on how Australia are to handle Archer, whose superb second-innings spell saw him take 3-32 in one of the most exciting Test cricket debuts of recent memory.

Paine insists Australia are prepared for more of the same at Headingley, adding: "We copped some short pitch bowling, guys have got plans in place and we've prepared really well for it, it's now about going out and executing.

"When someone is bowling fast and the crowd's up and about it's exciting. It's great for Test match cricket, the interest it's sparked in the last week, 10 days is great for the game. We're looking forward to the challenge again this week."

The skipper also indicated Australia will alter their attack, with the pitch not expected to provide as much help for the seamers. 

"We're obviously looking at maybe a bowling change," said Paine. "Whatever line-up we pick we expect the guys will be able to handle it [the pitch] or adapt to it quickly."

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