Marnus Labuschagne warned England that tweaks “freakish” Australian teammate Steve Smith has made to his batting mean he is as dangerous as when he dominated the 2019 Ashes.
Smith hit a phenomenal 774 from seven innings in England four years ago at an average of more than 110 in the drawn series, starting with twin hundreds in the first Test at Edgbaston.
Since then the veteran has made technical changes to his game which Labuschagne told The Sydney Morning Herald should worry hosts England ahead of the start of the Ashes next month.
“If you look at how he batted this summer against the West Indies and South Africa, compared to how he batted in the Ashes in 2019, they’re two polar opposite methods of batting,” the top-ranked Test batsman said in comments published Friday.
“He has that freakish ability that he can find ways to have success regardless of how he plays.”
Labuschagne, who is preparing for the Ashes with a stint at county club Glamorgan, said the key difference was Smith’s stance, which had gone from “really open” to “a lot more side on”.
“You can see why his Twenty20 game has gone through the roof with some of those technical changes. It’s certainly helped him with his power and his swing. He took the mickey this summer in the white-ball stuff,” he added.
“It just shows he can bat both those ways and have ample success. And knowing Steve he’s made sure he works out what he feels is the best method to score runs here in England.”
Smith, who averages nearly 60 in his 16 Tests in England, is warming up for the five-match series with Sussex. He was 68 not out overnight against Labuschagne’s Glamorgan.
Smith said this month that winning a series in England was high on his “bucket list”, admitting that it could be his last chance.
“Potentially. I mean, I’m 34 in just under a month. I’m not sure I’ll be back. We’ll see,” he said.
One England player he won’t have to face is paceman Jofra Archer, who has been ruled out of the Ashes with a stress fracture to his right elbow.
Labuschagne called it “a massive blow” for England, praising Archer as “phenomenal”.
“Everyone knows that he can bowl fast, but I think what doesn’t get talked enough about is his actual skill and his ability to swing and seam the ball,” he said.
The first Test starts at Edgbaston on 16 June. Ahead of that, Australia face India in the World Test Championship final at The Oval from 7 June.