England is gearing up for the second Test at Lord’s by trying to find a way to beat Steve Smith, but the Australian skipper Tim Paine’s attitude is pretty much … ‘good luck with that’.
Paine believes Smith’s ability to think on his feet will counter England’s likely beefed-up attack.
Likely to be thrown into the deep end to shake up Smith will be World Cup hero and Test debutant Jofra Archer.
The 24-year-old has recovered from a side strain and will replace England’s all-time leading wicket taker Jimmy Anderson in a quest for a faster pace attack that could challenge the Australian batsmen.
Test greats Shane Warne and Michael Atherton have both backed the relaxed right-armer to handle the pressure and teammate Jos Buttler says he’ll be just as tough with the red ball in hand.
“You’ve seen what he can do in the Big Bash and obviously the IPL as well, so he’s well versed in pressure situations and big games,” Buttler said.
“He’s got amazing skills with the white ball but … he prefers bowling with the red one,” he said at the launch of Kookaburra’s new SmartBall, which records data from a microchip in the pill.
“That’s exciting for us. He just brings that X-factor.”
Archer was England’s leading wicket taker in its winning World Cup campaign, which ended with him being chosen to deliver a super-over after scores were tied after 50 overs.
Jack Leach has also replaced Moeen Ali as England’s frontline tweaker, with the hosts aware Smith’s average against left-arm finger spin is a mere 34.9.
But Australian skipper Paine believes Smith is every chance of backing up on his innings of 144 and 142 in the first Test.
Smith averages 101 with the bat from 10 Ashes Tests.
The hosts all but admitted they’d run out of ideas last week at Edgbaston, while a bamboozled England captain Joe Root’s best attempt at bravado was to declare Smith has to “start again when he gets to Lord’s”.
“The beauty of Steve is you can come up with a plan but he’s good enough to adapt really quickly,” Paine said. “I’ve seen him do it between balls.
I’ve seen him do it when guys have targeted him from one end a certain way and a completely different way from the other.
“That’s what makes him the best player in the world – his ability to adapt to any plan that is thrown at him.
“He processes it quicker than other players and adapts on the spot.”
Steve Waugh expressed similar sentiments last week, likening Smith to a computer because of the efficiency in which he analyses every ball and just “spits out the answer”.
Smith kept overlooked paceman Mitchell Starc busy during the series opener, with the fidgeting genius’ wish for a fresh set of batting gloves approximately every half an hour being one of his many idiosyncrasies.
Starc, having regularly struggled to get the better of Smith during net sessions at home in Sydney and around the world, has no sympathy for England’s bowlers.
“Not a bit. I’m glad he’s on our team,” Starc quipped.