Despite niggles, Steve Smith confident of leading Australia in Boxing Day Test

Steve Smith played through the discomfort to lead Australia to a dominant innings and 212-run victory in Hobart.

By: Reuters | Published: December 12, 2015 3:45:57 pm
Steve Smith, Steve Smith Australia, Australia Steve Smith, Steve Smith Australia runs, Australia West Indies, West Indies Australia, Cricket News, Cricket If Steve Smith is fit for Melbourne, Australia’s selectors could have a selection headache. (Source: Reuters)

Australia captain Steve Smith will sit out domestic Twenty 20 matches because of knee and hip niggles but has “no doubt” he will be fit to face West Indies in the second Test in Melbourne on Dec. 26.

Smith played through the discomfort to lead Australia to a dominant innings and 212-run victory in the first Test in Hobart on Saturday, giving them a 1-0 lead in the three-match series.

If Smith is fit for Melbourne, Australia’s selectors could have a selection headache when it comes to choosing their batting line-up.

Top order batsman Usman Khawaja will return to the squad for the Boxing Day Test but needs to prove his fitness in Big Bash League (BBL) action to win back his spot in the team after a hamstring strain ruled him out Australia’s last two Tests.

“Usman’s first got to be fit. If he’s not fit he won’t play, there’s no doubt about that,” coach Darren Lehmann said.

“We’ve got to make sure he’s playing BBL to get some sort of match fitness and see how the strain of the hamstring is and then when we get him in … we’ll have a look at him and see whether he’s available to play.”

Shaun Marsh came in to replace Khawaja, who had scored centuries in his previous two Tests, and scored 182 in Hobart in a match-turning partnership with Adam Voges (269 not out), the sixth highest stand in Test history.

“We’ve got a dilemma,” Lehmann conceded. “We’ve just got to pick the best team to win that particular game. If Usman is in then someone’s got to miss out.” Smith said it was a nice problem to have.

“I thought Shaun played beautifully throughout this Test match, he and Voges certainly changed the course of the game,” the skipper told reporters. “The game was in the balance and those guys put in a terrific partnership and really set the game up for us.”

The bowling unit also came in for some praise after what Smith described as a “clinical” win. Josh Hazlewood led the attack and claimed his 60th Test victim while accumulating match figures of 7-78, and James Pattinson returned from 18 months out of Test cricket to take 5-27 in eight overs in the second innings.

“I thought the bowlers bowled terrifically again, I thought Josh Hazlewood and (spinner) Nathan Lyon really stepped up in the first innings,” said Smith.

“In the second innings it was nice to see James Pattinson back to his best and bowling fast. He really wanted to do it today and really enjoy it. I think he bowled beautifully.”

Steve O’Keefe has also been called up but only for the third Test in the New Year, giving Australia the option of playing two spinners in Sydney. Australia squad for second Test: Steve Smith (captain), David Warner, Joe Burns, Usman Khawaja, Adam Voges, Shaun Marsh, Mitchell Marsh, Peter Nevill, Peter Siddle, James Pattinson, Josh Hazlewood, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Nathan Lyon.

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