Australia all-rounder Mitchell Marsh said there would be no “backing down” by Steve Smith from any England bouncers should the star batsman feature in Sunday’s second one-day international at Old Trafford.
Smith missed Australia’s 19-run win in the first of a three-match series against world champions England after being hit on the head by a throw-down from a member of the tourists’ coaching staff while batting in the nets on Thursday.
Australia insisted he was being rested purely as a precaution despite passing a concussion test and a team spokesman said Saturday that Smith had come through another such check.
“It gives us great confidence and probably gives our selectors a few headaches now because the top-order struck them beautifully without getting big scores,” Marsh told a conference call on Saturday.
“Any time you have Steve Smith coming back into the team is a great feeling.”
Smith was felled by a 92 mph bouncer from England’s Jofra Archer during last year’s drawn second Test at Lord’s.
But despite missing the third Test, Smith still scored 774 runs, including three hundreds, at an average of over 110 during a five-match series that ended all square at 2-2, with Australia retaining the Ashes.
World Cup winner Archer is set to be involved again on Sunday as England look to level a three-match series.
And Marsh insisted Smith would be the last person who would want Australia’s formidable pace trio of Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins to go easy on him in the nets.
“The Steve Smith I know will probably ask guys to bump (bounce) the hell out of him, he loves the contest,” said Marsh. “Anyone that bowls 150 kph (93 mph), he loves the challenge so certainly there will be no backing down from Steve Smith, I know that 100 percent for sure.”
Asked if Smith would rise to the challenge if England bowled bouncers at him, Marsh replied: “Absolutely. I’m looking forward to seeing that happen.”
– ‘Unplayable Hazlewood’ –
Marsh made a valuable 73 on Friday as he shared a stand of 126 with fellow all-rounder Glenn Maxwell (77) that helped Australia recover from 123-5 to an eventual total of 294-9.
It was his second succesive important innings after Marsh’s unbeaten 39 saw Australia to victory in the third Twenty20 at Southampton on Tuesday, albeit England won that series 2-1.
Marsh, not selected for the first two T20s, explained how he had hit the ground running in his first competitive cricket since March by saying: “The only time I’ve ever had six months is through a bad injury, so I used the time well.”
The 28-year-old had a ringside seat on Friday as Hazlewood’s superb opening spell of 2-5 in six overs helped restrict England’s powerful top-order to 22-2 off the first 10 overs of their chase.
It the kind of run-rate more associated with one-day internationals in the 1980s, when Marsh’s father, Geoff, opened the batting for Australia.
“Two for 20 would have been a flyer back in the day, the old man would have been pretty happy with that,” joked Marsh.
“It was absolute class bowling from Josh Hazlewood, and Starcy and Pat in the first 10 overs. Josh’s length was borderline unplayable,” he added.
“I was at first slip for most of it and was talking to (wicketkeeper) Alex Carey and (captain) Aaron Finch that it was just beautiful bowling.”
England, however, recovered from 57-4, with Sam Billings making a maiden ODI century in a total of 275-9, as they took the match to the last over before Australia recorded just their third win in 14 ODIs against their arch-rivals — a run that includes last year’s World Cup semi-final defeat.
“They are the No. 1 team for a reason, they bat deep and always come at you so we’ll have to be ready for that and make sure we are up for the fight tomorrow,” said Marsh.
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