MANCHESTER: Star Australia batsman Steve Smith is recovering from his head injury but is no certainty to be recalled for the One-day International series decider against England at Old Trafford, head coach Justin Langer admitted on Tuesday.
Smith missed the first two matches at the same venue after being hit on the head by a ball in the nets last week and is expected to have his fitness assessed during a training session later in the day.
The day-night finale is on Wednesday.
“He is definitely tracking in the right direction and we are hopeful he will be right for [Wednesday],” Langer told reporters in a video call. “He did all his running [on Monday], some high speed running, worked hard as part of the protocols. He has ticked every box at the moment.”
England won the second ODI on Sunday by 24 runs to level the three-match series after the visitors, chasing a modest target of 232, suffered a dramatic collapse.
Australia opener David Warner has struggled for form, scoring six, six and a duck in his last three innings of the white-ball tour, which included the three-match Twenty20 International series.
The swashbuckling left-hander has been dismissed in all four matches he has played by England fast bowler Jofra Archer, who has now taken Warner’s wicket seven times in just 10 internationals, including three in last year’s Ashes.
“It’s been a great contest, hasn’t it?” said Langer. “Davey, he is a superstar. He is an incredibly important part of our side, so I am sure he is working over-time to certainly be up for [Wednesday] night’s game.”
Australia have now squandered winning positions in all three formats against England in just over a year, starting with a stunning one-wicket loss in the third Ashes Test at Headingley.
They threw away the opening Twenty20 match of the current tour and then capitulated against 50-over world champions England in the second ODI on Sunday.
But Langer was adamant that Australia had no qualms when it came to close finishes against arch-rivals England.
“I don’t think there’s a mental fragility,” he said. “These things happen.
The hardest thing in cricket is hitting the winning runs. We were chasing under lights on a worn wicket. It was challenging and we weren’t up to the challenge.
“We’ve got a very good team and are showing in most of the cricket we are playing that we are up to the fight. I don’t think they [the defeats] are linked at all. “
Meanwhile, Langer has admitted his side could have given more thought to taking a knee during their tour of England following criticism from West Indies great Michael Holding.
England and West Indies cricketers adopted the gesture at the start of each of their three Tests in July to show their support for the campaign to fight racial injustice.
The practice was repeated during England’s one-day matches against Ireland but not in subsequent series against Pakistan and Australia.
Holding, an outstanding fast bowler in the successful West Indies teams of the 1970s and 1980s, accused England bosses and Australia captain Aaron Finch of making ‘lame’ statements over ending the practice of taking a knee.
But Archer said Holding did not know what was going on behind the scenes and had not ‘done his research’ with the Barbados-born speedster insisting the team and officials remained committed to the Black Lives Matter movement.
Langer, however, suggested Holding may have had a point, saying: “When Mikey [Holding] says what he says, it’s certainly worth listening to. In terms of taking a knee, to be completely honest, we could have talked more about it perhaps leading up to the first game.
“There was so much going on leading up to us getting here, maybe we should have talked more about it.”
The former Australia opening batsman added: “What we do talk about within the team, was that we want to have a response that is sustained and powerful, and that it can go not just in one action but a sustained period. Not just throughout this series and the summer but throughout time.
“I just hope if it looked like there was a lack of respect, it wasn’t the intention of our team. We were very aware of it.”
Published in Dawn, September 16th, 2020