Smith’s are huge shoes to fill – we have to share that burden, says Paine
Australia captain Tim Paine insists it is not solely the responsibility of Marnus Labuschagne to fill the void left by Steve Smith in the third Ashes Test.
Smith, whose Test average of 63.24 is bettered only by the great Sir Don Bradman in the all-time list, was ruled out at Headingley because of concussion after taking a blow to the neck from a Jofra Archer bumper at Lord’s.
Labuschagne stepped in as international cricket’s first concussion substitute and performed commendably in Smith’s absence, registering a 100-ball 59 as the tourists secured a nail-biting draw to preserve their 1-0 series lead.
Labuschagne is almost certainly set to keep his place and Paine is adamant the South Africa-born batsman alone cannot bear the brunt of the hole left by Smith.
The skipper said: “We do it as a team. There aren’t too many guys, there’s only one other, that have averaged higher than Steve in Test cricket.
“Clearly they are huge shoes to fill and we don’t put all that pressure on Marnus. Marnus comes in to play a role in our team and it’s up to everyone else, particularly our senior players, to just make sure we give that little bit more output and cover Steve as best we can.”
Smith started the series with hundreds in both innings at Edgbaston, only the fifth Australian to do so in an Ashes encounter, so his absence is a sizeable blow for Australia.
Paine added: “He’s been in really good form, he’s been playing really well so he’s disappointed not to be playing. He along with the rest of our group understand why he isn’t.”
Asked about his recovery schedule, Paine added: “In terms of his next week, I’m not too sure. I think he’ll probably just lightly build up as the week goes on and he’ll be continually monitored.
“If he keeps progressing well then I guess he starts batting straight away and full training with a view to playing as quickly as possible if everything goes well.
“There’s a strong medical process in place that Steve’s got to tick a lot of boxes to make sure he’s ready to go and our medical staff are then comfortable with him playing.”