McDonald backs Smith, Labuschagne to fire in second Ashes test

SYDNEY: Australia coach Andrew McDonald backed Steve Smith and Marnus Labuschagne to rebound from rare twin failures in the opening Ashes test, but said it was a positive sign that his team could still win without getting hefty contributions from them.

The pair mustered only 35 runs between them at Edgbaston, where Australia won by two wickets thanks to a 55-run ninth-wicket partnership between captain Pat Cummins and Nathan Lyon.

McDonald said it was “very rare” for Smith and Labuschagne to misfire in the same test match.

“They’re disappointed they missed out in this game, but I think any time the Australian cricket team can win without those two performing at high level is always a positive,” he added.

“We’ve got some areas we can improve, there’s some growth within the team and there’s two obvious ones.”

Labuschagne, who has been replaced by England’s Joe Root at the top of the test rankings, was dismissed for a first-ball duck and 13 while Smith, who scored 774 runs in the 2019 series, scored a 59-ball 16 in the first innings and six in the second.

Australia’s coaching staff will be there to offer advice but McDonald expects the pair to work out their own solutions in net sessions.

“I think there’s always a curiosity to get better, so we’re not going to stall that in any way. They’ll come up with different plans, different movements,” he said.

“They’ve seen what England are going to do and how they’re going to attack them. They’re probably two of the greatest problem-solvers we’ve had over a period of time so you would expect them to go back to the drawing board.

“(Batting coach) Michael Di Venuto will be part of that process. They’ll come out pretty clear what they need to do next innings. But there’s no issue there.”

The second test of the five-match series begins at Lord’s on June 28. —Reuters

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