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Toughest Australian Test cricket year over

Australia will be able to pick Steve Smith and David Warner for the Ashes opener, with the team winning three of nine Tests without them.

Toughest Australian Test cricket year over

Australia will be able to pick Steve Smith and David Warner for the Ashes opener, with the team winning three of nine Tests without them.

STEVE SMITH of Australia celebrates his half century during the Fourth Test Match in the 2017/18 Ashes series between Australia and England at MCG in Melbourne, Australia.
STEVE SMITH of Australia celebrates his half century during the Fourth Test Match in the 2017/18 Ashes series between Australia and England at MCG in Melbourne, Australia. Picture:Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images

One of the toughest chapters in Australia's Test history is over with Steve Smith and David Warner free to return to the field when the national team next play red-ball cricket in England.

Smith and Warner's bans from the ball-tampering scandal don't expire until the end of March, but Australia next play a Test from August 1 in England, with captain Tim Paine declaring this week both should be picked.


In total, Australia played nine Tests without their two batting figureheads, winning three, drawing two and losing four.

But the 2-0 series victory over the struggling Sri Lankans at least ended the period on a high note, and gave Australia hope heading into this year's Asehs series.

"We spoke at the start of the summer about our main priority was to win back the respect of the Australian public and our cricket fans and, sitting here now, we've gone a long way toward doing that," Paine said.

"We've probably still got a little bit of work to do but I think we're on the right track.

"I couldn't be happier with the way our coaching staff, our support staff and our playing group have gone about things in some difficult times.

"It's in difficult times you see the characters you've got in your group and it's confirmed to us we've got some good characters - some strong characters and some people we can build a really strong Australian cricket future on."

Australia debuted seven rookies in the period without Smith and Warner, cycling through 20 players.

Travis Head was the best find after Cape Town, scoring 663 runs at an average of 51. Intriguingly, the under-fire Usman Khawaja was the next best with 599 at 42.78.

Together, Australia averaged 28.13 per wicket with the bat, down from 35.29 in the previous year with Warner and Smith.

Australia's figures with the ball also suffered, up to 32.94 runs per wicket from 28.13 in the preceding 12 months.

Crucially, though, the out-of-form Khawaja and Mitchell Starc both stood up and re-found their best at the end of the summer going into a big 2019 of cricket.

"A real lesson in a lot of the younger guys in the team is Test cricket is not always easy no matter how good you are," Paine said.

"For the younger guys - to see them go through a really tough period, not throw in the towel and keep working away and get the results they did in this Test - was a really good lesson in perseverance."

AAP


AAP




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