As he has been since day one of the first Ashes Test at Edgbaston, Steve Smith was once again commanding the attention of the camera.
On Monday, two days before the second Test kicks off at Lord’s, the Australian cricket star had more on his to-do list then just hit a million balls at training as the tourists fine-tuned their preparation for the crucial clash in London.
Kitted out in his whites, pads, gloves and baggy green and carrying his bat, Smith — who scored centuries in each innings at Birmingham — posed for a series of snaps at the home of cricket for gun Getty photographer Ryan Pierse. While Smith was taking centre stage, Aussie captain Tim Paine couldn’t help chiming into a shot himself.
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Photobomb of the year goes to @tdpaine36 #ashes @stevesmith49 @gettysport @GettyImages pic.twitter.com/SP5TU3bPgx
If there’s something familiar about Paine and Smith smiling together at Lord’s, it’s because it’s a scene we’ve come across before. The two made their Test debuts in a match against Pakistan at the world’s most iconic cricket ground in 2010 and they’ve reunited to do it all again nine years later.
They’ve hardly changed a bit…Source:Getty Images
But their paths to this day couldn’t have been more different. Paine was anointed as Brad Haddin’s wicketkeeping successor and was tipped for a bright future before a crippling finger injury derailed his career and robbed him of confidence to the point where he was playing for Tasmania’s second XI and considering quitting cricket altogether before his shock call-up in the 2017/18 home Ashes.
In that 150-run win over Pakistan nearly a decade ago, Smith batted at No. 8 in the first innings and No. 9 in the second, scoring just 13 runs for the match as he filled the role of the team’s No. 1 spinner, taking 3/51 in the second dig.
Who would have thought he’d go on to become captain and talked about as the best batsman since Don Bradman? And who would have thought Paine would be brought back into international cricket seven years after his last Test, then take over as skipper when Smith was banned for a year for his role in the ball-tampering scandal?
Nobody, that’s who.
The second Ashes Test is a special occasion for Paine, returning to the place where it all began as leader of his country in the heat of Australia’s most hyped cricket rivalry.
And the 34-year-old could never have predicted how his cricket journey would bring him back to Lord’s nine years on.
“I would have thought it would be in different circumstances but nonetheless I’m really proud to be a part of this Test side,” Paine told reporters in his pre-match press conference.
“I’m rapt to be playing international cricket again and to have a second opportunity and to have the captaincy with that is a great honour now — one that I certainly didn’t want or expect but doing the job now I’m thoroughly enjoying it.”
Paine is making the most of his recall to the Test side.Source:AFP
Paine scored seven and 47, took five catches and knocked over a stumping on Test debut and although he doesn’t have many vivid memories of his first outing in the baggy green, he’s aware how special it is to be able to step foot on the hallowed Lord’s turf again.
“Not a lot,” Paine said when asked what he remembers of his debut. “I remember we won the Test match, Marcus North I remember getting six-fa I think which is interesting for a part-time spinner.
“I remember then a lot of nerves. It was an interesting day, a really cluttered and nervy day so I don’t actually don’t have a huge amount of memory of the day.
“I can remember Ricky (Ponting) giving me my cap and Steve (Smith) but again I can’t remember a word he said, I’m not even sure if I was listening.
“It’s always special, having made my Test debut here, I think that ground is always going to be special to you but to have it here I think it’s a special ground for all cricketers.
“Our team’s rapt to be here, we love playing cricket at Lord’s.”
While Paine thought his injuries and form woes had brought an end to his international career, Smith’s time at the top was interrupted for different reasons and he admitted in Birmingham he lost his love for cricket at one stage during his 12 months in exile.
But after twin tons in the series opener the romance is well and truly back and Smith will be looking forward to wearing the whites at Lord’s for the first time since he blazed his maiden Test double ton there — 215 in the first innings of a match during the 2015 Ashes.
Are there more centuries in store for Smith at Lord’s?Source:Getty Images
Smith will line up in his customary No. 4 position and Paine will take his place behind the stumps on Wednesday night but the make-up of the bowling attack is less certain. James Pattinson was left out of the 12-man squad for the Lord’s Test with either Mitchell Starc or Josh Hazlewood to join the pace brigade of Pat Cummins and Peter Siddle.
Pattinson was rested to ensure his injury-prone body can withstand the rigours of a five-Test series and Paine said whichever way the Aussies go with his replacement, the team will be well served.
Left-arm quick Starc was the top wicket-taker at the recent World Cup with 27 scalps, while right-arm Hazlewood was left out of the tournament to get him fit and ready for the Ashes.
Hazlewood returned figures of 3/34 in last week’s tour match at Worcester but the final decision as to who plays in the second Test will not be revealed until the toss.
“They (Hazlewood and Starc) are both world-class bowlers and when you leave guys like that out, particularly two of them at a time, you can see what sort of people they are and we’ve been really impressed with both of them,” Paine said.
“We’ve had Josh Hazlewood on the A tour, the whole time priming himself to play in the Test and then when he missed out, obviously they were both disappointed but they are really both excellent team men.
“It’s always nice from a captaincy and a leadership point of view when you’ve got two senior players who are world-class left out and they cop it on the chin, run drinks, and train their backsides off in the lunch hours and tea breaks. It sets a really good example for the rest of our team.
“Whichever one of those two we unleash tomorrow, they are certainly ready to go.”
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