Australia captain Tim Paine is expecting the “same old Steve Smith” when the star batsman eventually returns to Ashes action.
“Steve Smith’s the best player in the world, he will come back in the next Test, if it’s the next Test, or the tour game and we’re expecting him to be the same old Steve Smith,” said Paine. “He’s a high-quality player and he’ll adapt as he always has.”
Smith has been ruled out of Thursday’s third Ashes Test at Headingley after being concussed by a Jofra Archer 92 mph bouncer in the drawn second Test at Lord’s.
Marnus Labuschagne, cricket’s first concussion substitute, made a fine fifty in the second innings after being hit flush on his helmet grille second ball by Archer.
Labuschagne is set to take Smith’s place at Headingley as Australia look to fill the void left by being without arguably the world’s best batsman.
Smith, whose Test average of 63.24 is exceeded only by all-time great Donald Bradman, marked his return to Test duty after a 12-month ball-tampering ban with innings of 144 and 142 in Australia’s 251-run win in the first Test at Edgbaston before making 92 at Lord’s.
“Steve loves batting, I don’t think that’s going to change,” Paine told reporters at Headingley on Wednesday.
“Marnus is strange, he seems to enjoy getting hit on the head, so he’s a different kettle of fish altogether. Marnus has handled himself exceptionally, his innings was unbelievable after that happened.”
Smith could return to action in the three-day tour game against Derbyshire from August 29-31, with the fourth Test in a five-match series at Old Trafford beginning on September 4.
The wicketkeeper added: “Clearly they are huge shoes to fill and we don’t put all that pressure on Marnus.”
– ‘Doctors’ responsibility’ –
Meanwhile England captain Joe Root said he would have no qualms about a player withdrawing from a match because of concussion.
“I think you have to give the responsibility to the doctors and if they say he’s not fit, regardless of the situation in the game, then that has to stand,” said Root during his pre-match press conference.
“Of course this is a huge series and it means so much to all our players, but it doesn’t mean that much in terms of someone getting seriously hurt and potentially ruining the rest of their life.”
World Cup-winner Archer’s Test debut, which yielded five wickets, also featured a compelling duel with Smith.
“The way Jofra bowled in that spell made for great cricket,” said Root.
“It was great to be on the field and be part of that.”
But Root, who will be back on his Yorkshire home ground this week, added: “You never want to see someone go off injured like that.
“There was a lot of concern in our dressing-room for his (Smith’s) health and it’s great to see he’s up and about and is fine.”
England too have been without a star player after James Anderson, their all-time leading wicket-taker, broke down early in his spell at Edgbaston with a calf injury that paved the way for Archer’s Test bow at Lord’s.
“We had the challenge of Jimmy going down four overs into a Test match and had to manage that without a replacement,” said Root.
“You get these swings within a big series like this every now and again and when you get your opportunity you’ve got to jump on it.”
England have not won any of their last eight Tests against Australia but must win at least two of the next three if they are to regain the Ashes.
Root, with England having had the better of a rain-affected draw at Lord’s, insisted: “The thing that has to change from the last game is not much, we just need two extra days’ cricket, which we lost to the weather.
“I feel we are in a really good position in the series to square it up this week, then put a lot of pressure on Australia.”