Australia captain Pat Cummins has forecast a “big week” for leading batsmen Steve Smith and Marnus Labuschagne in the second Test against England at Lord’s.
Smith and Labuschagne managed just 35 runs between them across four innings in the first Test at Edgbaston last week, yet Australia still won a thrilling encounter by two wickets to take a 1-0 lead in the five-match Ashes series.
This week will mark Smith’s first match at Lord’s since he was felled by a Jofra Archer bouncer during the 2019 Ashes Test at the ground.
Labuschagne replaced Smith as a concussion substitute and made 59, an innings that proved the launchpad for a run spree in Test cricket.
“I don’t think we played the complete game last week by a long shot,” Cummins said at Lord’s on Tuesday, on the eve of the second Test.
“I think that is one of the most pleasing things, that we weren’t at our best but still managed to get over the line. That is not always going to be the case.
“History would suggest Marnus and Smithy rarely miss out, so I am expecting a big week from them.”
Cummins, unlike England, has yet to name his side, although he did reveal Mitchell Starc has been drafted into the squad, with the left-arm quick seemingly competing for a place in the final XI with fellow paceman Scott Boland.
“We will have another look at the wicket and make a final decision tomorrow,” said the skipper.
England, with the pitch at Lord’s showing a green tinge, have opted for an all-seam attack and have decided against selecting a specialist spinner – Moeen Ali suffered a finger injury at Edgbaston.
Fast bowler Josh Tongue, who made his Test debut against Ireland at Lord’s earlier this month, has been chosen in Moeen’s place, with England having the option of Joe Root’s occasional spin.
By contrast, Australia off-spinner Nathan Lyon is set to become the first specialist bowler to appear in 100 consecutive Tests, with the 35-year-old also in sight of the landmark figure of 500 Test wickets.
“I think it’s a testament not only to how good Nathan is in terms of longevity and fitness and form, but to be able to play 100 Tests means you are getting picked in all conditions,” said fast bowler Cummins.
He added: “I couldn’t imagine a side without Nath in there.
“I’ve seen they have gone with four quicks, which is probably as we expected after seeing Moeen’s injury last week, but I feel really lucky we’ve got Nathan.
“Hundredth consecutive Test match, [potentially] 500 Test wickets, it’s incredible all the milestones he keeps ticking off. This is a really special place in cricket but for Australia as well. We’ve had some success at this ground in recent years so yeah, a big one for the memory bank.”
© Agence France-Presse