For a fleeting moment, Steven Smith was fully part of preparation for the Headingley Test. He joined team-mates for an initial look at the pitch and then was in the general huddle before training.
But from the instant that group broke up and the other 16 players assembled for warm-up exercises, only an official confirmation was required to add to the obvious evidence of the eyes: Smith had been ruled out after failing to recover in time from the concussion he suffered at Lord's.
Given the symptoms Smith had experienced the morning after his blow from Jofra Archer and the desperately short turnaround time between Lord's and Leeds, it had always been difficult to imagine him being fit to bat in time. While Cricket Australia's concussion policy does not set a minimum recovery time, its requirement for a graded return to play was almost inevitably going to take longer than the three days available.
Justin Langer, not only Australia's coach but also the recipient of a huge number of blows to the head when batting for his state, county and country, said the decision to leave Smith out of calculations was, in the end, a straightforward one in the hands of the team doctor Richard Saw. "It was pretty simple really, when we followed the protocols, he was probably a couple of days off being fit to be selected," Langer said. "There's been a lot of work go into this concussion substitute, the concussion policy, over many years.
"The very fact we've got one in international cricket goes to show how much has gone into it. At the end of the day it was really a no-brainer, he felt a bit better yesterday but he is not going to have time enough to tick off everything he needs to do to be ready to play. Not unlike England losing James Anderson, he's arguably their best bowler, we are going to arguably lose our best batter for this Test match, so it's always a blow, no doubt about that.
"You take your best players out it always has an impact, we have got to make sure that all the other guys, our senior players and our younger players all step up and fill what are almost unfillable shoes as he is almost the best player in the world. We've talked the whole time about squad mentality and being ready and when things come up like they always do in this game and guys are ready to step up and I'm confident they will do that. He obviously, like all the players, wants to play, he loves batting but he understands as well that he's not 100% yet and with only a couple of days between Test matches, that's what makes it so difficult."
Smith had initially passed a concussion test and returned to complete his innings in the hour after he was struck on the fourth afternoon, but woke up with a headache and some dizziness on the final day and mandatory subsequent testing revealed his condition to have deteriorated. Langer, who had defended the decision to allow Smith to resume his innings at Lord's when he passed initial tests, said the subsequent diagnosis after the later onset of the blows effects had not only educated him but also caused him to pause and think about past instances in his own career.
"The process is there for a reason and I am 100% confident that the decision made the other day was the right one," Langer said. "He passed all the testing and he had a smile on his face, he had colour in his face, he was desperate to go out and bat and as I said the other day, I asked him over and over and over.
"We have a duty of care to our players not just as cricketers but as people. He was really keen and confident he was okay and the tests all showed that. They talk about this delayed concussion. I probably have a whole different insight having been in his shoes a couple of times before. It can hit you afterwards and it did with him and that's why he is out of this Test match."
While the vice-captain Travis Head had expressed hope that Smith would be fit, and he joined the rest of the team on the bus from Leeds out to Headingley, he arrived with an expression that indicated he would primarily be at training as a spectator. After taking an initial look at the pitch for the third Test, Smith joined the squad's start-up huddle, but then walked away for a lengthy one-on-one discussion with Langer in the centre of the ground.
He then moved closer to the Kirkstall Lane End of the ground for another chat, this time with Saw. All the while the rest of the squad went through warm-ups, then fielding practice and ultimately a net session, as Smith did no more than look on.
The former captain Mark Taylor, in England as a commentator, chatted with Smith, whom he has mentored at regular intervals over his career. Langer can be expected to lean on Taylor, Ricky Ponting and other members of the commentary cadre for advice and counsel over the remaining three Tests, after Steve Waugh's stint as team mentor ended with the conclusion of the Lord's Test.
Finally, as Smith and Taylor walked to the middle to observe and advise on some catching drills, the official word arrived. Smith was out of the Headingley Test, giving him two weeks to recover and prepare for the fourth match of the series at Old Trafford. And as much of a blow to the Australians as this is, the underlying emotion was care: for Smith, and for anyone who has been hit a similarly horrid blow. England's coach Trevor Bayliss, a longtime associate of Smith who was coaching New South Wales the day Phillip Hughes was struck at the SCG in 2014, summed it up.
"I went up to their medical room to check on him when he came off," Bayliss said. "It's something you never like to see and certainly brought flashbacks from that New South Wales v South Australia game a few years ago when Hughesy got hit. But just glad to see him get to his feet. Hopefully he's right and able to play in the next match."