Steve Smith's consistency has been simply outstanding in the 2019 Ashes series. He has scored 751 runs at an average of 125 and his lowest score in the entire series has been 80. Smith, who was battling flu at the Oval Test, still batted brilliantly and combated the conditions well as he looked good for his fourth century in the series but he was trapped LBW by Chris Woakes. Jofra Archer was the star yet again and he went on to take 6/62, his second five-wicket haul in the series. Backed by Sam Curran's 3/46, England managed to bowl Australia out for 225 and establish a 69-run lead after Jos Buttler's aggressive fifty helped the hosts reach 294. Speaking after the end of the day's play, Smith heaped praise on Archer.
"He's a quality performer. He's got two five-fors in four Test matches (Archer has twice taken six wickets in an innings) and you don't get guys bowling 90 miles an hour growing on trees and with the skillset he's got. He's a terrific bowler and there's no doubt that he'll gain a lot of confidence from his first Test series," Smith responded.
Archer and Smith's duel has fascinated many cricket fans in the ongoing Ashes contest. Archer's hostile spell at Lord's, in which he bowled in excess of 90 mph to Smith, made for some wonderful vieweing. Archer's bouncer hit Smith on the side of the neck and the batsman was substituted by Marnus Labuschagne and missed the Leeds Test. When asked about the rivalry which can develop in the near future, Smith offered a pragmatic view.
"Who knows? When's the next Ashes series? I don't even know. Will I still be playing? I'm not sure. Who knows the answer to that? We'll see," Smith remarked.
Smith's brilliance and Labuschagne's consistency has been the only shining lights in Australia's woeful batting in the series. David Warner and Marcus Harris have failed while barring one century, Matthew Wade has also struggled. Smith said he does not have a problem of shouldering the responsibility of scoring the bulk of the runs but admitted that the conditions were different.
"We haven't seen any huge totals really throughout the whole series so it's not been easy. There's always been something there, I felt. If you bowl in good areas for long enough then I think we've seen you'll get rewards. Playing in England is completely different from playing back home and you've got to find ways to play away from home. Sometimes you need to change certain little things that can help you play in certain conditions and adapt accordingly but I think it will be a good learning curve for all of our batters," Smith said.
Australia would be hoping to make some early inroads on day three as they look to win a series in England for the first time since 2001. Tim Paine's side have already retained the Ashes having won the fourth Test at Old Trafford.