“It’s about ticking the rhythm against bowling”

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Said Australia’s morale remains high despite online threat to Ashton Agar

As he prepares for the final hurdle in his convalescence recovery, Steve Smith hopes a long-awaited overseas test tour can help him shrug off a ‘strange few years’ and rekindle his vintage form. during Australia’s historic visit to Pakistan.
With the first test in Rawalpindi starting on Friday, the 32-year-old is due to complete the first Australian tour training session on Tuesday to secure his availability. Smith will face bowling for the first time since suffering a concussion on February 13 after landing on his head following a spectacular diving attempt to save a six in the second T20I against Sri Lanka.

During Australia’s training sessions in Melbourne ahead of the tour, Smith faced side arm bowling and spinning on his return from the nasty head shot which ruled him out of the rest of the series. five games.

“It’s about ticking the rhythm of bowling,” he said. “Once that’s done, everything should be fine. It’s progressing well.”

Smith detailed his recollection of the frightening incident at SCG, where he dove full length on the midwicket’s deep edge, and the side effects he’s endured since. The vice-captain has a history of concussions, including being hit by a Jofra Archer bouncer and having to be substituted during the Lord’s Ashes Test in 2019.

“I knocked myself out for a few seconds,” he said. “When I came to, I was in a weird state. I knew right away that I was probably concussed after taking a few blows to the head.

“I had headaches and drowsiness. A few Fridays ago I had an incident of vertigo where I was struggling a bit that day. I had the Epley maneuver and I got the crystals where they’re supposed to be. the inner ear.

“After that, things kind of calmed down and progressed really well. I was able to do the drills I needed to get back into that ready-to-play state.”

This has made preparation difficult for Smith, who is eyeing a return to form after a lackluster Ashes, where he made just 244 carries at 30.5. It was the first time since September 2017 that his test average fell below 60.

While his struggles against England were perhaps excusable on bowler-friendly terms, Smith’s rut ​​began after his heroic Ashes in 2019 – the final Test tour for Australia.

Even though his meager 14 Test run only includes a century at 36.86, Smith remains confident, believing Australia’s disrupted schedule since the Covid-19 pandemic has contributed to his lack of pace. Australia have been limited to nine Tests in the past two years, while Smith has played just 18 Tests since the infamous sandpaper scandal four years ago resulted in a 12-month ban for him .

“I love getting started and being able to play a lot of cricket and find my rhythm,” said Smith, who averaged 57.1 in 39 Tests away from Australia. “It’s been a few years since I played away from the Ashes in 2019…it’s hard to fathom.

“I’m proud of my away performance. On the last away tour, I performed very well in the Ashes and hopefully I can replicate something similar in this series.”

Smith said Australia’s morale remained high following an online threat against all-around spin bowler Ashton Agar, who was investigated by authorities and did not not considered a risk.

“We feel incredibly safe here in Pakistan and we will be guided by our safety and the people we trust around us,” he said. “We did a team BBQ last night, it was amazing. The food was sensational. It’s been really good so far.

“I’m just thrilled to be here in Pakistan and to bring Test cricket here as an Australian team.”

Tristan Lavalette is a Perth-based journalist

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