Smith misses training with sore back
Steven Smith gave Australia an injury concern ahead of the Old Trafford Test, failing to train on Tuesday due to a sore back. Smith was Australia's only centurion from the tour match in Sussex, where he finished unbeaten on 102 in the first innings, and his efforts there meant he was unlikely to be in any real danger of losing his place for the third Investec Test in Manchester.
However, he will now have only one training session, on Wednesday, to prove his fitness ahead of the must-win Test, which begins on Thursday. Although Australia were confident that Smith would be fit, the unpredictable nature of back problems meant that it was too early to make a decision on his fitness.
"I think he's doing okay," opening batsman Chris Rogers said. "He might have tweaked it a little bit yesterday but talking to him he said he's improved a bit so hopefully he'll be right to train tomorrow and good to go on the first day. I think it's just a bit restrictive, so hopefully it's not a big issue."
The uncertainty around Smith added to the issues the selectors will face in the lead-up to the third Test, although if he were to miss out, it would give them an easy decision on how to squeeze David Warner back into the side. On Monday, Warner rejoined the squad for the first time since the Ashes began, after he was sent to Zimbabwe and South Africa to gain some match practice with Australia A.
His 193 against South Africa A in Pretoria in his final match of that tour built the pressure on the rest of the batsmen, although the coach Darren Lehmann said after the Sussex game that Warner was no certainty to be part of the XI in Manchester. Warner batted in the Old Trafford nets on Tuesday and would be the natural replacement if Smith were to miss out.
However, if Smith is fit to play and the selectors want the newly in-form Warner to slot in to the middle order, Phillip Hughes could be the man to miss out after scoring only two runs from his past three Test innings. Warner would be likely to bat in the middle order if recalled for his first Test of the tour, and Rogers said he was the kind of batsman who could make all the difference if things went his way.
"Davey brings a lot of energy to the group always," Rogers said. "He's just one of those guys. He goes a hundred miles an hour. It's fantastic to see him get runs. He's such a destructive player that if he bats for a while he could put some real pressure on England. If he plays hopefully he can do well and have one of those games out and help us win this next Test.
"He's one of those ones opposition know that they have to get out quickly. If he bats for a while he can take the game away like Gilchrist used to do. Hopefully he can do that if he does play."
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here