Justin Langer is relishing the prospect of seeing Australia talisman Steve Smith back to his best in the fourth Ashes Test.
Former captain Smith missed the series-levelling one-wicket loss at Headingley after a bout of concussion sustained when a short delivery from Jofra Archer struck his neck during the second Test at Lord’s.
Australia coach Langer has confirmed Smith, who remains the series’ leading run-scorer, would return to the side for this week’s crunch clash at Old Trafford, where he hopes to see the 30-year-old quickly find his groove.
Asked at a news conference on Monday if Smith had recovered his rhythm, despite scoring only 23 in a tour match against Derbyshire, Langer said: “I hope so.
“I’ve just thrown to him for about half an hour and he’s moving really well.
“We’re all hopeful that he gets back into the zone and hits the ball in the middle of the bat. He’s shown that throughout the summer.
35% – @stevesmith49 has accounted for 35% (378/1082) of Australia’s runs from the bat in this #Ashes series so far; since 2013 Australia have won 31 of 61 Tests he has featured in (L21, D9) and 4 of 12 (L6, D2) when he has not played. Central. pic.twitter.com/DPlLZ3vSmc
— OptaJim (@OptaJim) August 20, 2019
“The whole time he’s been here he’s been batting well so let’s hope he can continue that. It’s important for our team.
“It’s just nice knowing that he’s back in the team.”
Smith’s comeback will mean a change to the tourists’ top order, but replacement Marnus Labuschagne’s contribution of three half-centuries should see him retained.
That would leave one of Marcus Harris, Usman Khawaja or Matthew Wade in danger of being dropped for the match in Manchester, which gets under way on Wednesday.