England v Australia - 3rd Specsavers Ashes Test: Day Three
England v Australia - 3rd Specsavers Ashes Test: Day Three

The Tim Paine issue nobody wants to talk about

With the dust still settling on the extraordinary events at Headingley, thoughts now turn to the fourth Ashes Test, where Australia will meet England at 1-1 in the series but with the mood music completely altered.

Tim Paine's side need a response to wrestle momentum back from the jubilant hosts.

And will be buoyed by the likely return of his best player, absent from the damaging loss in Leeds.

 

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Five burning questions that will need answers before then ...

 

WILL WE GET THE SAME STEVE SMITH AT MANCHESTER?

The Australian superstar is a lock to play the fourth Test, and just as well.

 

Steve Smith has been working with team doctor Richard Saw on his return to the side.
Steve Smith has been working with team doctor Richard Saw on his return to the side.

 

He faced bowlers in the nets at Headingley on Sunday for the first time since his concussion diagnosis, and was running at full tilt too. He could make 300 against Derbyshire in this week's tour game, with his hunger for runs having gone unsatisfied for a week.

But the continued short-ball assault from England speed demon Jofra Archer during the second Test won't let up when they get to Manchester.

There's no doubt Smith, who took blows to the arm and then neck at Lord's, will be peppered with chin music. Australian coach Justin Langer called Smith the "greatest problem solver" in cricket, but also said any batsman who doesn't think they will be affected after being hit was a liar.

 

IS PAT CUMMINS COOKED?

Australia's iron man was the one guy pencilled in to play five all Tests despite a "squad mentality" with the six fast bowlers and a horses for courses selection policy.

 

Pat Cummins was below his usual, world class best in Australia’s defeat at Headingley.
Pat Cummins was below his usual, world class best in Australia’s defeat at Headingley.

 

But after three Tests the number one fast bowler in the world looked low on juice. He took 1-80 during Ben Stokes' second innings slog-a-then and looked like he had no answers when forced to come back for a fourth spell late on day four, having done nothing with the new ball earlier in the day.

Cummins also lasted just 19 balls with the bat in two innings, a far cry from his 80-ball stay at Lord's.

He was adamant post-match he felt good, but after playing every game in the World Cup too, and a big piece of the preparation for that event, Cummins could need to watch on at Manchester, for his and his team's sake.

 

DOES AUSTRALIA NEED TO FIND AN ALL-ROUNDER?

The big-hitting of Ben Stokes may have won England the Test match, but it was his warhorse work as a bowler late on day two that ensured his team was close enough to even have a chance.

 

Ben Stokes ran himself in to the ground with the ball before producing an all time show with the bat.
Ben Stokes ran himself in to the ground with the ball before producing an all time show with the bat.

 

He bowled 14 unchanged overs, as part of England's five bowler attack, taking 3-56 to keep Australia below 250 for the second time in the match. It's a go-to Australian captain Tim Paine doesn't have, with the leg-spin of Marnus Labuschagne, who bowled six second-innings overs, his only option when the fast men need a rest.

A look through the current catalogue of Australian players leaves selectors with Mitch Marsh and Marcus Stoinis, while Michael Neser is a bowler who can bat well. Marsh and Neser are in England, but if you bring them in at some stage, you further weaken a batting line-up already looking brittle.

 

HAS ENGLAND TAMED NATHAN LYON?

Nathan Lyon went past Dennis Lillee when he removed English captain Joe Root early on day four, thanks to a stunning David Warner catch.

The Australian spinner now has 357 Test wickets, after getting Jofra Archer out slogging in the afternoon.

His best stuff at Headingley was terrific too, but it must be said it only came in one spell. Lyon also got slapped around by Ben Stokes, who smashed him for four sixes.

Lyon finished with 2-107, which came after he took 0-102 at Lord's. He bowled Australia to victory at Edgbaston, but hasn't been his same effective self since. Manchester is hardly spin friendly, but he is the GOAT.

 

AND THEN THERE'S TIM PAINE

The elephant in the room since the Ashes began has been the lack of batting output from the Australian captain.

He needs to score vital runs in the number seven spot even though you have to acknowledge that skipper had been excellent at the two things he's actually in the team to do; captain and keep wicket, before the final day at Headingley.

 

 

On day one he was excellent, keeping Josh Hazlewood on for 11 first session overs, bringing in a short cover to get rid of Jos Buttler, and pulling moves to roll England for 67.

When he can do that, any runs Paine gets have to be considered a bonus. You only get one Adam Gilchrist in a lifetime. But his afternoon work on the final day, allowing Ben Stokes to smash 73 runs, showing no intent to get him out other than caught on the boundary, was evidence of a man low on answers when the pressure builds.

He was sitting pretty with the Ashes urn almost secured, but now he's under the pump and will need to respond.

News Corp Australia


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