Australia's shock selection move hours before third Test

Chris Young
Sports Reporter

Australia will drop opener Cameron Bancroft in a surprising move just hours before the third Ashes Test is due to begin at Headingley.

The Daily Telegraph cricket writer Ben Horne reported Marcus Harris is set to come in for Bancroft, who made his return to Test cricket after being banned for his role in the sandpaper scandal in the first Ashes test at Edgbaston.

It’s not the only surprise switch head coach Justin Langer is making, with paceman James Pattinson also likely to rejoin the squad.

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Marnus Labuschagne was already announced as Steve Smith’s replacement in the middle order, after the former captain was ruled out due to concussion concerns arising from the second Test.

Cameron Bancroft, left, has reportedly been dropped from the Australian team to make way for Marcus Harris, right. Pictures: Getty Images

Harris joins a top order that has struggled early in the series, with fellow opener David Warner and Usman Khawaja both struggling with the bat in the opening two matches.

Australia hold a 1-0 lead after their win at Edgbaston, with the second Test ending in a draw after several rain-affected days.

Paine backs Steve Smith to recover

Australia are confident they can retain the Ashes in Leeds without Smith, who has been officially ruled out of the third Test because of concussion.

The former skipper cut a desolate figure at training on Tuesday, when team doctor Richard Saw declared him unavailable for selection.

Smith was more upbeat and active on Wednesday, when he prowled the boundary alongside Dr Saw while some teammates hit the nets.

It may not seem like much - and was a far cry from facing a spell of short stuff from Archer - but the milestone was significant.

Provided he pulls up ok from the low-intensity activity, Smith will soon gradually step things up with more vigorous exercise then basic cricket drills.

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The 30-year-old will have to face fast bowlers in the nets before he is cleared to play, which the tourists hope will happen in time for next week's tour match against Derbyshire.

"There's a strong medical process in place. Steve has to tick a lot of boxes to make sure he's ready to go, that our medical staff are comfortable with him playing," Tim Paine said.

Paine rubbished the notion, put forward by former England captain Nasser Hussain, that Smith's stunning form could be affected by his nasty scare.

"Steve Smith is the best player in the world. He will come back next Test or the tour game and we're expecting it will be the same old Steve," Paine said.

"He's a high-quality player and he will adapt, as he always has."