Australia paceman Josh Hazlewood has praised the bravery of Steve Smith and expects the former skipper to put his body on the line yet again when he returns to a cracking Optus Stadium wicket.
Smith was struck twice by rising Shaheen Afridi deliveries in Saturday’s first Test against Pakistan, but he made it through to stumps unbeaten on 43.
The 34-year-old’s steadying knock helped Australia recover from 2-5 to reach 2-84, an overall lead of 300 with two full days to play.
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With the Optus Stadium deck starting to crack up and create a few worries, runs could be hard to come by.
Pakistan employed a bodyline-style approach to Smith and a late blow to his left arm particularly hurt.
Steve Smith was in pain after the blow late on day three. Credit: Channel 7
“There’s a gap between his glove and forearm guard,” Ricky Ponting said in commentary on Channel 7.
“(The ball) hits him up on top of the wrist bone, and that’s the worst place you can get hit. Down closer to the wrist is where you see most breaks.”
Marnus Labuschagne also copped punishment, with the No.3 sent off for scans after being struck on the little finger of his right hand by a wildly seaming Khurram Shahzad delivery.
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If scans show a fracture, Labuschagne could miss the Boxing Day Test.
Labuschagne was dismissed for two a short time after copping the blow, but Smith will be out to face the music when play resumes on Sunday.
Hazlewood is backing Smith to take any more hits in his stride.
“He’s incredibly brave,” Hazlewood said.
“I think it’s probably going to be tougher to play the short ball than in the first innings.
“Batting looked pretty tough there at the end. I think the cracks are starting to definitely come into play.”
Labuschagne could miss the Boxing Day Test. Credit: RICHARD WAINWRIGHT/AAP
Pakistan’s batting coach Adam Hollioake has identified a part of the wicket that could prove to be a crucial weapon for the bowlers.
“I walked out there in between innings and there is an area on a good length something between six metres and seven metres,” Hollioake said.
“It’s a little bit outside off stump. It’s small at the moment but let’s see if that opens up.
“I mean it’s not as bad as some of the ones we’ve seen in the history of the WACA. It’s not alarming.
“But it’s something to aim at. I think it would be in the batsman’s mind a little bit.”
Assuming they avoid a massive collapse, Australia are expected to declare approximately midway through day four, with a lead in excess of 450.
And from there Pakistan’s batters can expect similar treatment from the Australian pace attack if the cracks have opened even further.
But all eyes will turn to Nathan Lyon as the star offspinner attempts to snare Test wicket No.500.
Lyon’s three first-innings wickets lifted his tally to 499, and he had the chance to take the 500th then and there before Travis Head snared the wicket of No.11 Shaheen.
Australia could see the funny side of the situation.
“Travis said when they replay your 500th wicket, you don’t want it to be a tail ender, you want it to be a good wicket at the top,” Hazlewood said with a smile.
“We’ll see it happen in the second innings hopefully.”
– with 7NEWS