Joe Root ‘couldn’t believe’ that Steve Smith returned to action in Australia’s first innings before being ruled out of the remainder of a dramatic drawn Test at Lord’s.
Australia defied the absence of star batsman Smith because of a concussion and more devastating spells of pace bowling by Jofra Archer to hold out for a draw in the second Ashes Test against England on Sunday.
I mean that was a horrible moment,” said Root on the Archer short ball that caught Smith. “You’re always trying to find different ways of getting players like Steve out. You never want to see anyone get hurt. And I couldn’t believe that he managed to come back out and play.
Obviously desperate to do well for Australia and for his teammates. All of us in the dressing room just want to wish him a speedy recovery.
“So, we’ll plan for him to be ready to play (at Headingley) and have to keep trying to find ways to get him out.”
Set an improbable victory target of 267 off 48 overs at Lord’s, the Australians quickly slumped to 47-3 but a fourth-wicket stand of 85 between Marnus Labuschagne (59) and Travis Head (42 not out) helped push them to safety.
Australia lost three more wickets in a five-over stretch to keep the match alive as the light faded, but managed to survive to 154-6 at the end.
Australia retained a 1-0 lead in the five-match series.
Watch what England captain Root had to say in the video above.
Jofra Archer’s latest spell of thunderous fast bowling narrowly failed to deliver an Ashes-levelling victory at Lord’s but England captain Joe Root believes the debutant has reset the course of the series.
England made a bold push on day five of the second Specsavers Test, declaring 266 ahead after Ben Stokes’ unbeaten 115 and then reducing the tourists to 154 for six in a tense final session.
Just as he had been in the first innings Archer was at the centre of things again, taking three for 32 and sending down a number of ferocious deliveries at more than 90 miles per hour.
Archer had already forced star batsman Steve Smith to withdraw from the match with a delayed concussion caused by a 92mph bouncer to the neck on Saturday, and landed another frightening blow that smashed Marnus Labuschagne square in the grille.
Labuschagne was on the field as Smith’s concussion substitute, Test cricket’s first, and went on to top-score with 59.
Root did not demur when it was suggested that Archer might have the same kind of influence as Australia’s Mitchell Johnson, whose express speed saw him claim 37 wickets in the 2013/14 edition.
“Potentially. He’s come in and he really has made a massive impact, added a different dynamic to our bowling group and has given Australia something different to think about,” said Root.
Me getting out of bed tomorrow morning pic.twitter.com/dQ6FK91EWr— Jofra Archer (@JofraArcher) August 18, 2019
“It’s really pleasing to see someone come in on Test debut and really shake up things and live up to the hype – even some of the hype that he put on himself.
“He makes things happen when not many others in world cricket can. Such a unique action and way of bowling, and obviously natural pace, which is always going to be in the game on any surface.
“When you’ve got that and the skill of other guys around, it makes for a tasty combination and I think that’s one of the reasons why we always felt we were in the game tonight and always felt we could get a result right to the end there. It makes for a very interesting last three games.”
England will name their third Test squad on Monday morning, with the injured James Anderson (calf) expected to be absent again but potential additions to the fragile batting line-up.
For Australia the biggest issue now surrounds whether or not Smith takes the field in Leeds on Thursday.
That would be just four days after being diagnosed with a head injury, a worryingly brief turnaround given the nature of his exit from the last match.
Smith has already said he will aim to play in the game provided he gets the green light from Cricket Australia’s medical team, led by the specialist doctor Richard Saw.
A Cricket Australia statement released on Sunday evening read: “Steve Smith had a precautionary scan of his neck on Sunday which, as expected, cleared him of any structural damage.
“After the scan Steve returned to the team hotel to rest and he will continue to be reviewed on an ongoing basis.”
Steve Smith accepts his withdrawal from the second Ashes Test with delayed onset concussion was the right decision but has already declared his intention to be back on the field at Headingley on Thursday.
Smith was felled on the fourth afternoon when a 92mph Jofra Archer bouncer struck him in the neck, forcing the Australian to retire hurt after lengthy treatment only to complete his innings little more than 40 minutes later.
At that stage he had passed all the on and off-field testing protocols but he gave an unsteady performance after returning to the crease and he woke up on Sunday morning reporting a headache and feelings of grogginess.
Follow-up tests showed his results had deteriorated and Cricket Australia became the first side to initiate the concussion substitute rules that were introduced by the International Cricket Council just this month, with Marnus Labuschagne the first such replacement.
Smith had argued against coming off in the immediate aftermath of the blow and was eager to return as soon as possible but had no complaints about being pulled from the match once his condition became clear.
“I woke up feeling a little bit groggy and with a headache again, I had some tests done and upon further assessment it was deemed to be a mild concussion unfortunately,” he told CA.
Joe Root on Steve Smith.— Samuel Ferris (@samuelfez) August 18, 2019
'It was a horrible moment. All of us in the dressing room wish him a speedy recovery. We'll be preparing as if he's playing the third Test' #Ashes
“The results changed slightly, they declined a little bit. With the tests I’ve done and how I’ve woken up, it’s the right decision.
“I’d love to be out there trying to keep performing and trying to help Australia to win another Test match but the right decision has been made and I’ll be monitored very closely for the next few days.”
It is just five years since Smith’s friend and team-mate Phil Hughes died after being hit by a bouncer in a Sheffield Shield match and, although CA has undoubtedly led the way on head injuries and concussion substitutes, questions will be asked over whether or not Smith should have been allowed to bat again.
Having passed both computerised and non-computerised assessments, Australia doctor Richard Saw saw no reason to step in but it is now apparent that Smith was in a vulnerable position and would have been prone to further damage had he been hit again.
That made it all the more surprising to hear he is intending to prove his fitness for the third Test in Leeds, which begins just four days after his diagnosis.
“It’s obviously a quick turnaround between Test matches and I’m going to be assessed over the next five or six days, each day probably a couple of times., to see how I’m feeling and progressing,” he said.
“To see him go down, everyone stopped and everyone's heart skipped a beat.— Test Match Special (@bbctms) August 18, 2019
"After he got up and he was moving around, you breathe a sigh of relief. No-one wants to see anyone getting carried off on a stretcher."@JofraArcher on the ball that struck Steve Smith.#bbccricket pic.twitter.com/bQgihNjb1u
“Hopefully I will be available for that Test match. It’s up to the medical staff and we’ll have conversations…it’s certainly an area of concern, concussion, and I want to be 100 per cent fit.
“I have to be able to train probably a couple of days out and then face fast bowling to make sure my reaction time and all that kind of stuff is in place – there are a few tests I have to tick off and time will tell.”
Smith’s optimism does not appear to be shared by the governing body, with a statement from CA casting doubt on his appearance.
“In terms of Steve’s availability for the third Test, this will be considered over the coming days but the short turnaround to the next Test is not in his favour. Steve’s fitness will be assessed on an ongoing basis,” it read.
CA guidelines rule out any return to physical activity for 24 hours, after which it must be a graduated process taken under constant review.
The ICC’s most recent review on the subject recommends a week away from action and the England and Wales Cricket Board does not allow for a return to full training before at least six days have passed.
More encouragingly, Smith appears ready to try wearing a protective stem guard again – the extra layer of neck protection introduced following the Hughes tragedy but shunned by some players as being uncomfortable.
“That is certainly something I need to have a look at and perhaps try in the nets and see if I can find a way to get comfortable with it,” said Smith.
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