Agar restricted, Smith renewed
Injuries have had contrasting effects on Steve Smith and Ashton Agar in the early passages of the Lord's Test. Agar, so free in his movements during his unforgettable debut at Trent Bridge, has been visibly restricted by a hip problem and underwent scans after the first day's play. Smith, meanwhile, revealed he had battled a quad strain for the past 10 days, and thus entered the match raring to bowl after not doing so much in the nets recently.
Australia's physio Alex Kountouris described Agar's difficulties: "Ashton Agar has some left hip pain but has been able to continue bowling. He will bat and is expected to be able to bowl next innings." Agar struggled with his action for most of the day and moved awkwardly in the field. Smith, though, was quite the opposite.
"I haven't been able to bowl for a week and a half in the nets because of a quad injury so I was nice and fresh and it came out naturally. It worked for me," Smith said after his spell of 3 for 18 changed the complexion of day one, at the same time explaining why he was not called on to bowl at Trent Bridge. "I was actually really keen to have a bowl yesterday. I was actually warming up an hour before hand but he [the captain, Michael Clarke] wasn't watching.
"I really enjoy bowling when I am bowling well. I sort of probably put a bit too much pressure on myself when I'm not. That's why I guess having a week and a half off bowling and just coming out and being natural has been good for me."
It was no coincidence that Smith's most productive spell as a legspinner in a Test match took place now. He is classified as a batsman who bowls a little rather than the opposite. Despite ample natural ability to twirl a leg break, Smith has never considered himself a frontline bowler, even if past selection panels have classified him as such.
"I probably wasn't ever an actual spinner," Smith said of making his Test debut as a bowling allrounder at Lord's against Pakistan in 2010. "I was lucky to get that role at that time. I've always seen myself as more of a batter than a bowler so I'm obviously grateful to have played out here as a spinner and taking a few wickets at the same time."
Smith has spoken at various times to Shane Warne down the years, memorising advice about keeping his shoulder high and generating maximum spin. The advice of the new national coach Darren Lehmann has been simpler, but no less valuable.
"Every time he walks past me he says keep bowling at the stumps," Smith said. "That's a pretty simple plan for a spinner. Just try and hit the stumps and let natural variation play its part."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here