The Investec Ashes 2013 June 23, 2013

Steve Smith added to Australia's Ashes squad


Uncertainty surrounding the durability of Michael Clarke's back and the suspension handed out to David Warner have forced Australia's selectors to add Steve Smith to the Ashes tour party until at least the start of the second Investec Test at Lord's.

Fawad Ahmed, meanwhile, will return home to Australia to complete his application for citizenship, though the national selector John Inverarity was at pains to stress that the legspinner may yet still be called into the Ashes squad at a later date. The 19-year-old left-arm spinner Ashton Agar is being kept with the squad as an intern, much as he had been in India earlier this year.

Smith made a century in difficult circumstances for Australia A against Ireland and then led the tourists to their narrow victory over Gloucestershire. Following the match he was informed of his inclusion for the next three weeks of the tour and possibly longer, given the currently parlous state of Australia's batting.

Widely considered unlucky to miss out on the initial squad of 16 following staunch performances in the final two Tests of the India tour, Smith is considered a future leader by the national selector John Inverarity.

"The first uncertainty was with David Warner's suspension. He won't be able to play before the first Test so his preparation will be anything but ideal," Inverarity said. "Even though Michael Clarke, his back is improving and we fully expect him to play in Taunton, there's that little bit of uncertainty about his back. So it could be that if Michael's back went again we'd be short of a batsman. So it was obvious we needed to bring another batsman in.

"Steve's a young man, we're really hoping he comes through as a player, he's a very talented player, good cricket sense, a good batter, runs between the wickets well, a brilliant fielder, his occasional leg breaks might come in handy, but he was the next batter and we needed the cover, it was very obvious. In Ireland it was apparently a very difficult wicket, some good players got knocked over early so he had to fight to get through it, and he did so very well, made a very good head-down hundred."

Ahmed found life difficult against Ireland and also Gloucestershire, but Inverarity said his most striking impression over the previous three days had been how difficult it was to bowl spin in cold weather and gusty winds at the County Ground in Bristol. Allowing for that difficulty, Ahmed showed glimpses of the quality that has seen Federal Government legislation changed to expedite his receipt of an Australian passport.

Though Agar is staying in England and Ahmed leaving, both are still part of the Australia A squad due to tour South Africa from mid-July, and Inverarity said his panel were still leaving themselves open to the possibility of adding one or the other to the Ashes squad should conditions dictate. The first two Tests of the series at Trent Bridge and Lord's may offer more to pacemen than spinners, with more helpful surfaces likely at Old Trafford and The Oval in the third and fifth Tests.

"I've said all along if we were to add a player to the squad it was likely to be a spinner - because of the Warner and Clarke situation we've actually added a batsman," Inverarity said. "But we still have that option open to add a spinner. Nothing's changed in that regard. Fawad's flying home tomorrow, and the procedure for him to become a citizen will continue, and then the intention is for him to go to South Africa, as it is for Ashton.

"Ashton being 19 years of age and being here it's an ideal development opportunity so he'll stay with the squad until he goes to South Africa. If we decide to have another spinner it will be one of those two. Ashton staying as a development player is no indication whatsoever that he's now ahead of Ahmed.

"My overwhelming impression [in Bristol] was that the conditions were terrible to bowl spin bowling. It was cold and with a gusty breeze. Very difficult conditions for him to bowl both in Ireland and here. He's a very good bowler. If we were to call on him he's broken the ice with the players and gets on very well with the players. He's a lovely man."

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Graham on June 25, 2013, 23:29 GMT

    For those having a go at Steve Smith should serioulsy have a look at his recent record. A handy shield season was followed up by good performances in test cricket in India. He has then backed that up with scores for Australia A and is deserving of his call-up. From what I have seen of late his technique although not great has been shadowed by his determination and ability to wait for the right ball. As someone who doesnt like the New South Wales focus of certain selections I am happy that Steve SMith has been added to the squad.

  • Peter on June 24, 2013, 20:32 GMT

    @ScottStevo. I am also a big fan of Ferguson, but only see him once a season. Averages only tell you so much, Smith, to be fair, does play on a tough track at the SCG for batsmen whereas Adelaide offers great returns for a batsman, that said, I would also have Ferguson in the squad ahead of at least 2 others. 4 innings or not, Smith did apply himself when given the opportunity, that is all you can ask of selected player. He has gone to great lengths to improve his technique & by all reports, still working on it. That is the sort of commitment I admire in cricketers, rather than the way a few individuals carry on/

  • Anand on June 24, 2013, 18:12 GMT

    As a supporter on Indian cricket, it seemed quite baffling as to why Steve Smith never made it to the team more consistently. He is always "effective" , may not be the most pleasing, but very very effective. The thing i liked the most was his demeanor, and always showing intent.

  • Dummy4 on June 24, 2013, 17:50 GMT

    Steve Smith? Are you kidding me? How many more bits and pieces players are they going to pick? Just when you thought a team of Cowan, Hughes, Lyon and the likes cannot get any worse, the selectors drop this bomb. Whom are they going to pick next? Andrew "Ronald" McDonald?

  • Mashuq on June 24, 2013, 16:42 GMT

    @BrentG on (June 24, 2013, 0:01 GMT, agree that Agar has talent and will play within a year, but why risk pushing him backwards by playing him now. Invers is starting to make good decisions. Ahmed is probably Lyon's stand-in, but he'll only be needed in Ashes II or if Lyon gets injured. Agar and Zampa will definitely replace those too once they get the necessary experience. Everyone can't perform before they're 23, like Shane. On Smith, I'd prefer Doolan as the next cab off the rank, but you can't argue with present form and the role he's been given. Strictly a short-term prospect, but if he gets a go and keeps taking his chances that's all good. Better than persisting with mediocrity like Cowan although I wish him all the best in the first test.

  • Heath on June 24, 2013, 14:46 GMT

    He's been in good form and was one of the few shining lights in a poor Indian tour. He deserves his chance.

  • Dummy4 on June 24, 2013, 13:12 GMT

    I have followed Steve Smith's career and watched him action and his biggest asset is his tenacity and temperament.Given a bad situation and he will come out on top and save the day for a team.This was the factor which was lacking in the present CT squad.Steve Smith cannot be labelled as exclusively a one day player without giving him an oppotunity at Test Level.He will apply himself to any format as he has the right temperament

  • Scott on June 24, 2013, 12:00 GMT

    @Chris_P, I did see his first class record this season and it's about equal to Callum Ferguson's. The same Callum Ferguson who averages over 41 in ODI cricket (our old blooding in ground for test selection), is a middle order batsman (which we desperately need), has a wonderful technique and a good temperament. I'd have preferred him as he looks a lot more solid. Smith still is very wafty and loose armed. The reason we chose him in India is his fast feet, so he's decent against spin. Please don't fiddle the facts though, lads. He played 4 innings, one very good, one decent and two v ordinary. Two out of four isn't all that great, or anywhere near close to perfect. Granted, he is possibly the best fielder going. I was standing behind him in '09 and watching his movement, he's freakishly good. I think he's a good addition to the squad, but we have other guys that I'd personally prefer batting at 6 this time around. If he does play I wish him well as he will def feature in future teams

  • James on June 24, 2013, 10:13 GMT

    A great chance for Smith to continue to show he's an improving long format player. Lets hope he is one of the new breed who actually manages to string some success together. But all players have their ups and downs. Dave Warner was a genuine success up till the end of last summer, now the mob is baying for blood after one bad series (where almost everybody else failed). You gotta give talent a chance.

  • sri on June 24, 2013, 9:30 GMT

    Steve smith - Capable of some big hitting and a handy bowler.Definitely a good choice in shorter formats. But in tests? Not sure. If there is only one spot for spinner then make sure you select your best spinner and if you are selecting him as batsman then make sure he is better than other regular batsmen. Time will tell if he really evolved as batsman.