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Rejuvenated England look to exploit Smith's absence
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Rejuvenated England look to exploit Smith's absence

The scoreline for the Ashes series may read 1-0 in favour of Australia but it is in fact hosts England who head into the third Test at Headingley buoyed with a spirited effort in the previous game at the iconic venue of Lord's.

England's late resurgence in the drawn encounter was characterized by Jofra Archer's sensational Test debut that saw him pick up five wickets across both innings.

Steaming in to his effortless bowling stride, Archer released menacing deliveries with ease rattling the Australian batsmen to the core owing to his lightning speeds.

Archer, who replaced the injured James Anderson, made up for the absence of England's highest wicket-taker but lacked the final killer blow given the paucity of time in a rain-affected clash which saw five sessions being washed out.

While World Cup winner Archer's bowling heroics could not lead his side to an unlikely win, his most important contribution came in a rather unfortunate incident clearly not envisioned by the 24-year-old.

One of his sharp bouncers climbed up to Australia's star batsman Steve Smith at an awkward height striking him flush on the back of his neck thus ruling him out of the third Test as he recovers from delayed onset of concussion.

Smith's injury deprives the visitors of a vital cog in the line-up specifically after the world number two ranked batsman's twin centuries at Edgbaston were pivotal in awarding Australia a 251-run victory in the Ashes opener.

Smith's absence hence provides England with a chance to further expose their rivals' fragile batting given the lean run of David Warner, Cameron Bancroft and Tim Paine.

Smith's substitute Marnus Labuschagne made a brave 59 in testing conditions on the final day of the Lord's Test but he will have huge shoes to fill in to nullify the notion of Australia's heavy dependence on the former skipper.

Paine's men can take solace from the experience of the majority of the squad playing without Smith during the period of his 12-month ban though their record over the past year pales in comparison.

However, England's abysmal statistics in Leeds in the last decade offer another source of optimism to the tourists as they have been defeated in six of their last ten outings at the ground.

England themselves are plagued with troubles in their batting department with captain Joe Root failing to capitalize on starts and prolonging his brief stays at the crease.

The failure of Jason Roy at the top of the order has prompted murmurs of a change in the order with some suggesting he might move down to his preferred position where he bats for Surrey in domestic cricket.

Ben Stokes' dream summer of cricket was embellished by an emphatic ton in the last game, reassuring the England team management regarding their batting stocks.

Stuart Broad quietly rising to the occasion

Although Archer's fiery spell has been expectedly hogging the limelight, veteran paceman Stuart Broad has subtly progressed through the ranks to once again spearhead England's pace attack.

He is currently his side's top wicket-taker across the two matches with 10 scalps and his prowess with the new ball is still unparalleled.

Broad has been the nemesis of Warner, managing to dismiss him in three out of the four innings and similarly has proved to be threatening to the other Australian batsmen without yielding to the allure of short balls.

With Root's captaincy under scrutiny for perhaps 'overusing' Archer in the game at Lord's, Broad and Chris Woakes are anticipated to bowl a lot more overs this time around.

Travis Head - Australia's stabilizing force in the middle order

Australia have frequently been guilty of losing wickets in clusters in the top order with Smith being the lone ranger battling against the hostile England quicks on helpful surfaces.

Travis Head, batting in the number five slot, though has continued to quietly chip in with handy contributions in both games of the ongoing series.

Still finding his feet in the international arena, Head's impressive average of just a shade under 50 in 10 games lends credibility to his cricketing résumé.

He will, nevertheless, have an increasingly significant role to play without the company of the indomitable Smith on the other end.


Australia: Tim Paine (c & wk), Cameron Bancroft, Pat Cummins, Marcus Harris, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Michael Neser, James Pattinson, Peter Siddle, Mitchell Starc, Matthew Wade, David Warner

England: Joe Root (c), Jofra Archer, Jonny Bairstow (wk), Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Jos Buttler, Sam Curran, Joe Denly, Jack Leach, Jason Roy, Ben Stokes, Chris Woakes