Now that Steve Smith will be missing from the Headingley Test, Australia’s batting line-up needs to find some form.
Smith averages 63.24 in Tests while the rest of his team-mates average just 30.64 when the ex-captain plays.
That statistic is better than when Sir Don Bradman played for Australia. Although Bradman’s average of 99.94 is vastly superior, the Don’s team-mates contributed an average of 31.01 runs. Having greats such as Stan McCabe playing with Bradman, Smith’s efficacy is further highlighted.
Smith’s run-making ability can also be seen when looking at how many runs he scores as a percentage of the total team score. Smith’s 48.73% beats both Kane Williamson (46.58%) and Virat Kohli (40.97%) to demonstrate how key he is for Australia.
Marnus Labuschagne’s battling 59 at Lord’s as the concussion substitute for Smith may have guaranteed himself a place with Smith ruled out.
Travis Head’s place is secure with consistent – if not always convincing – scores so far this series. An average of 45 somewhat disguises the fact that he’s gone past 50 once in four innings.
For the rest, it is poor reading. Matthew Wade has 118 runs in the series but 110 of them came in one innings. Usman Khawaja is averaging 22.75 and needs a confidence-building score soon. There is still a valid argument that Khawaja is best used as an opener and his 96.80 average in that position supports that view.
As for David Warner and Cameron Bancroft, it will not be a surprise if at least one of them is deemed surplus to requirements.
Warner has four-single figure scores this series, averaging 4.50, and has been a walking wicket as England have picked him up first in all four innings of the series.
At least Bancroft has made double figures, but the opener must feel that Marcus Harris is close to replacing him for the Headingley Test. Justin Langer is a massive fan of his fellow Western Australian but must be finding it hard to justify an opening partnership that has managed just 2, 13, 11, and 13 in the Ashes so far.
Underpinning the worries for Australia is Jofra Archer. The England paceman has caused a stir, both physically and mentally, in his debut Test and will be posing far more problems on the quicker wicket at Headingley.
It will be interesting to see how his body has coped with the rigours of Test cricket. With such a quick turnaround – the third Test starts on Thursday – Archer may find that Tests are named as such for a reason.
However, a pace barrage awaits the Australians from England’s new strike bowler. How they react to that examination will determine whether the 1-0 series scoreline stays intact or not.