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Smith return would strengthen our chances of retaining Ashes: Paine

The image of Australian mainstay batsman Steve Smith as a saviour remains indelible, going by the confidence evinced in the statement of the Australian cricket captain.

Smith return would strengthen our chances of retaining Ashes: Paine

Australia captain Tim Paine feels Steve Smith's return could be decisive in Australias quest to retain the Ashes.

On the fourth day of the Lord's Test, Smith retired hurt on 80 after being hit on the neck by a 92.4 mph delivery from Jofra Archer. He returned to make 92, but was ruled out the next day due to delayed concussion which kept him out of the third Test at Headingley.

"Without Steven Smith playing I don't think we were given any chance of winning that Test match, so without Steve Smith playing I think most people wrote us off in that Test, so we're tracking ok," Paine was quoted as saying by ESPNCricinfo.

"You have the best player in the world coming back into your line-up," said Paine, admitting that Smith's return would strengthen their case.

"We're sticking to our plans and our process, I think it's working quite well and I said in post-match we've been in a position to win every game so if we continue to do those things and tidy up a few things we didn't quite get right at the end there then we think we'll be in the thick of it in Manchester and at the Oval."

Smith is expected to return for the fourth Test starting from September 4 after England rode Ben Stokes' epic 135 not out to level the five-match series 1-1.

"We've moved on, we're ready for Manchester, the group's in a really good spot, if we were 1-1 I think most people would've taken it," Paine said on the jaw-dropping loss where England gunned down a target of 359 after being 286/9 at one stage.

Paine was asked how to get Stokes out, and he pointed as Lyon to be their main weapon against the England allrounder.

"We've looked at it, I think Nathan Lyon in the last two Tests alone had got him out five or six times had we held our catches or referred our LBWs. Lyon's still a huge weapon against him, and there's some things we've spoken about with our fast bowlers where we think we can do things a little better.

"But he's a world-class player, he puts bowlers under pressure and makes them do things, and captains do things that you wouldn't normally do. That's a huge weapon England have got, and one we've got to try and contain in the last two Test matches."

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