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Smith returns to Australia line-up as Paine opts to bat first
Match Report

Smith returns to Australia line-up as Paine opts to bat first

Australia captain Tim Paine won the toss and opted to bat against England in the fourth Ashes Test at Old Trafford on Wednesday, with Steve Smith back in the tourists' line-up.

England had already confirmed their team, with fast bowler Craig Overton replacing Chris Woakes in the only change to the side that achieved a remarkable one-wicket win in the third Test at Headingley to level the five-match series at 1-1.

But they altered their batting order after being dismissed for just 67 in their first innings at Headingley, with opener Jason Roy and number four Joe Denly changing places.

Australia welcomed back star batsman Smith, who was ruled out of the Headingley match after being concussed by a Jofra Archer bouncer in the drawn second Test at Lord's.

Smith, who has scored 378 runs, including two hundreds, at an average of 126 in three innings in the series, replaced the struggling Usman Khawaja.

Australia, who have rotated their fast bowling line-up throughout the series, brought in left-arm quick Mitchell Starc for his first Test of the series on what is expected to be the quickest pitch of the campaign, with Peter Siddle omitted. 

"Looking at that wicket it looks a bit drier than you'd expect," said Paine at the toss. "We thought we'd have a bat first and put the runs on the board. 

"I've personally put Headingley to one side and I think a lot of the boys have. Good or bad, we have to move forward.

As for Smith's return, wicketkeeper Paine said: "It's a huge boost to have the best player in the world coming back into the side.

"Mitchell Starc has come in -- we think this wicket will have a bit more pace and potentially some reverse swing at the back end of the game. He's been working his backside off in the nets and he's good to go."

Smith said he was ready to return to Test duty, telling Sky Sports: "The series is well and truly alive. I'm looking forward to getting out here. 

"I haven't really changed a lot of my preparation. I've experienced a lot of short-pitched bowling throughout my career and it hasn't bothered me too much. If I get some of that, then so be it."

England captain Joe Root said he would also have chosen to bat first.

"We've played a lot of cricket here, and we know it's good for three-and-a-half days," he said. "We must be prepared to bat long periods of time and put miles in their bowlers' legs."


England: Rory Burns, Joe Denly, Joe Root (capt), Jason Roy, Ben Stokes, Jonny Bairstow (wkt), Jos Buttler, Craig Overton, Jofra Archer, Stuart Broad, Jack Leach

Australia: David Warner, Marcus Harris, Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith, Travis Head, Matthew Wade, Tim Paine (capt/wkt), Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Nathan Lyon