Australia head coach Justin Langer has termed allegations against Steve Smith for wiping out Rishabh Pant’s guard marks during the third drawn Test against India as ‘absolute load of rubbish’.
Smith was caught on stump camera trying to remove Pant’s guard during the fifth day of the third Test at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) as Australia tried hard to get rid of the left-handed wicketkeeper-batsman who went on the counter-attack.
The Pant-led Indian resistance forced the Australian team into some desperate acts, including Smith removing guard and skipper Tim Paine indulging in on-field chatter with Ravichandran Ashwin. However, Langer backed both Smith and Paine.
“I literally cannot believe some of the rubbish I read about Steve smith. It’s an absolute load of rubbish. If anyone knows Steve Smith — he is a bit quirky, he does some weird stuff. We have all laughed about it for the last couple of years. I have spoken about it publicly and I have spoken about it privately that he is a bit quirky. What Smith does at the crease, he does at most games,” said Langer while speaking to the media during a virtual interaction on Wednesday morning.
“Anyone who suggests for one millisecond he was doing anything untoward, they are way out of line. Absolutely out of line. That wicket was so flat…it was like concrete. You need 15 inch spikes to make an indent on the crease,” he added.
Off-spinner Nathan Lyon also defended Smith and said he was disappointed with the way people have jumped on the latter’s back.
“Obviously we had a chat with him. We are in the bubble together. I see him everyday. But I am really disappointed with the way everyone’s jumped on the back of him. He has played close 80-odd Test matches and he has done that every Test match. To be honest, I have done it every Test match as well. There is nothing wrong with it,” said Lyon in another presser.
“Smithy loves batting. We all know that. And even know that though we weren’t batting in the rest of the Test match, he is still thinking about batting. He does that to help me as well. He is looking at where I should look to pitch the ball. What pace I need to bowl on that wicket. It is all about conversation. He is going okay. He has got everyone’s support in the Australian change room. We are really disappointed with everyone coming out and saying things about Smithy because none of it is true,” he added.
Langer added that Smith has ensured that his bat does the talking ever since he has returned from the ball-tampering scandal.
“Seriously, I thought that was absolutely ludicrous. In the last couple of years since he’s been back, he’s been exemplary on and off the field. He has let his bat do the talking, he was abused like anything in England, but he kept smiling and let his bat do the talking. Give me a break.”
The former Australia opener, who took over from Darren Lehmann as coach after the ball-tampering scandal and has initiated an image makeover along with Paine, backed the team skipper after the wicketkeeper-batsman’s on-field chatter with Ashwin was caught on stump mic and became a subject of controversy in mainstream media as well as social media.
“You have no idea how much faith I have got in Tim Paine. He didn’t have his best day, no doubt about that. After three years he has hardly put a hair out of place. He has been outstanding as the Australian captain in everything he does. He had a frustrating day, we’ve got to cut him some slack surely. But having said that, when you set a standard as high as he does and as we do, we understand that we get criticised when we fall below that. But Tim Paine is an outstanding leader and will continue to be for some time to come. So he has my 100 per cent support,” said Langer.
Lyon, on his part, also backed Paine to come out with an improved performance behind the stumps in the fourth and final Test.
“I think Painey showed a lot of humility and a great leader to come out after the game and put his hand up and play in the game he wanted to play, so I know playing under Tim Paine, bowling to Tim Paine is exceptional. I absolutely love him to death. He didn’t have the game Australia wanted him to have. He owned that. He will make sure coming to Gabba. His preparation before the Test match started is on key. He got thrown captaincy in hard circumstances and he absolutely owned up. I think he has been brilliant for Australian cricket,” Lyon said.
“He does provide a lot of banter behind the stumps which is absolutely brilliant in my eyes. He probably got a bit more emotional, but he has owned that. I am expecting him to be no different and be as clinical as he has been behind the stumps. He said after the game that he doesn’t hate anything more than dropping the catch. And for him to drop three catches behind the stumps is unheard of. He will be raring to go 100 per cent in the last Test match and hopefully wrap up the series for Australia…,” he added.
With the series tied at 1-1, the two teams will now face each other in the final Test beginning Friday at The Gabba.
4th Test: India 62/2 at stumps after rain washes out 3rd session
Rain washed out the third session of the second day of the fourth and final Test at the Gabba here on Saturday with India going to stumps at 62 for two in reply to Australia’s 369 in the first innings.
India lost both their openers early as they went to tea at 62 for the loss of Shubman Gill and Rohit Sharma’s wickets before heavy downpour caused a deluge in the outfield.
While rain stopped, the groundstaff could not drain off the water and make the ground fit for resumption of play.
Play will resume half an hour early on the third day to make up for the lost overs.
Both the Indian wickets fell in the second session.
Shubman Gill was caught at second slip by Steve Smith off the bowling of Pat Cummins when the team score was 11 while Rohit Sharma, who looked good for his 74-ball 44, was caught at long on off the bowling of Nathan Lyon after adding 49 for the second wicket with Cheteshwar Pujara.
Earlier, Australia were bowled out for 369 in their first innings before lunch.
The hosts lost their last five wickets for 58 runs.
Pace bowlers T Natarajan and Shardul Thakur, and off-spinner Washington Sundar took three wickets each.
Resuming at the overnight 274/5, Australia lost Tim Paine (50) at 311 and then Cameron Green (47) at 313. Nathan Lyon and Mitchell Starc added 39 for the ninth wicket.
Brief scores Australia 369 (M Labuschagne 108, T Paine 50, C Green 47, T Natarajan 3/78, W Sundar 3/89, S Thakur 3/94) vs India 62/2 (Rohit Sharma 44)
Will try to aim at the crack outside off-stump: Nathan Lyon
Australia off-spinner Nathan Lyon has said he is looking to exploit the crack outside the off-stump during the ongoing fourth and final Test at the Gabba.
The ongoing Test is his 100th and Lyon is looking to get his 400th Test wicket in the series. The Rohit Sharma wicket just prior to tea was his 397th.
“It was like a Day 3 wicket yesterday, and there’s a nice crack outside off-stump so I’m trying to aim at that. My natural line is Paine’s right glove, that’s about a foot outside off-stump, and there’s a nice crack on that line so hopefully I can get something out of that,” said Lyon after the end of the second day’s play. He added that he tried to bowl his best ball to Rohit.
Lyon said that he is looking forward to resuming battle with Rishabh Pant who took him on in the third Test while also surviving a few chances.
“Rishabh always tries to smash me so I’m looking forward to bowl to him, it’s always a great battle with him,” said Lyon.
Lyon, whose parents are at the Gabba watching him play his 100th Test, said bubble restrictions haven’t allowed them to meet each other.
“It would’ve been nice to go out for dinner with everyone, including my parents but there are bubble restrictions,” said Lyon.
I let Nathan Lyon and Mitchell Starc down: Tim Paine
Australia skipper Tim Paine has said he is not worried about the lack of wicket-taking form of Nathan Lyon and Mitchell Starc as he took the blame on himself for squandering opportunities to deny them wicket on the last day of the third Test against India in Sydney.
Lyon has taken just six wickets while Starc has taken nine in the three Tests of the series so far.
“I think he (Lyon) has bowled okay. I thought in the first Test match in Adelaide, he created heaps of chances and didn’t get a hand. I thought the other day he bowled beautifully. If I hadn’t dropped a couple, it would have been a completely different story. Nathan Lyon playing 100th Test match — that is not easy. Absolutely top of the tree, how good he is. I don’t think that has changed. I don’t think it will change,” said Paine on Thursday ahead of the fourth and final Test.
“No, I am not seeing any decline in him. Sometimes you get wickets, sometimes you don’t. It is still coming out of his hand beautifully. At times Indians have played him well, at times he has bowled well. Looking at the footage, he has created chances, some of which we have dropped. He will have a huge role to play in this Test,” added the Australia skipper.
Paine said that Starc is being his natural self — sometimes consistent, sometimes inconsistent.
“He is just that type of bowler. Some days he is what he is, he looks like he one of the great bowlers of the world and the next day he has a bad day like the rest of us. Even in the last day at Sydney, he had a nice spell. We know how good he is. We know on his day, he can rip the Test match apart. But that is not going to happen every day,” added Paine.
The wicketkeeper-batsman blamed himself.
“My role with him was to keep him nice and calm and keep him clear on what I and we expect of him and he is a type of bowler when he gets simple clear instructions that keep him clear, he normally brings the house down. My mood around Day 5 — that was the reason why he wasn’t at his best. Again it is me getting back to basics. Keeping him nice and relaxed. Keeping him clear on what we want him to do and when we do that, he more often than not does well,” said Paine.
The Aussie fast bowlers got a very little time for turnaround. They bowled 131 overs on the fourth and fifth days of the drawn third Test at the SCG and are getting just three days to recuperate from the toil.
“We tried to rejuvenate all three of our fast bowlers last week. It was a big Day 5 for them, big week and short turnaround. Those guys are very good at doing that. They are professionals. The reason why they are great cricketers is because they are extremely durable. They are about to play their fourth Test back to back,” said Paine.
The fourth match of the series beginning Friday at The Gabba will be broadcast on Sony Ten 1, Sony Ten 3 and Sony Six channels.
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