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Steve Smith cops fresh Test cricket blow amid seven-year Josh Hazlewood first

Smith's latest setback comes amid growing calls to move him back down the batting order.

Steve Smith has copped yet another blow after his ill-fated move to open the batting for Australia's Test cricket side. Smith has faced growing calls to move back down the order after an underwhelming start to life as David Warner's successor, with scores of 12, 11 not out, 6, 91 not out, 31, 0, 11 and 9 in his eight innings so far at the top of the order.

Four of those matches came in home Test series against Pakistan and the West Indies, with his only half century at opener coming in a shock loss to the Windies at the Gabba. Smith's average since taking on the opening role is just 28.5 and he made just 51 runs across the two Tests against New Zealand at 12.75, despite Australia's thrilling clean sweep over the Kiwis.

Pictured left to right, Aussie cricket stars Steve Smith and Josh Hazlewood.
Aussie cricket stars Steve Smith and Josh Hazlewood have received mixed news with the latest ICC Test rankings announcement. Pic: Getty

The veteran's lean form had already seen his ICC Test batting rankings points slip below 800 for the first time since 2014. But Smith has copped yet another blow after falling two places in the latest Test batting rankings - coming in at No.5 on 757 points. Smith's average used to be comfortably above 60 but has now dropped below 57.

New Zealand's Kane Williamson is the No.1-ranked Test batter on 859 points, with Joe Root (824), Babar Azam and Daryl Mitchell (both 768) all now ahead of Smith after the Aussie slipped another 32 points down. Smith's latest rankings blow comes after coach Andrew McDonald backed the veteran to answer his many critics and rise to the challenge of opening when India tour Australia from November, in what will be Australia's next Test match.

"He is a great player and his ability to problem-solve is one of his great strengths. He's been challenged in these conditions (in New Zealand)," Australia's coach said about Smith. "He's up for the challenge. Anytime that Steve Smith fails, he sees it as a greater challenge.

"Walking away here with 51 runs (from four innings) in tough conditions, that'll no doubt drive him to the next challenge. That next challenge is India (and) it will be an internal motivator for him. He wants to open... we think he can make it work."

Josh Hazlewood rises to No.2 in bowler standings

The latest ICC Test rankings were not all bad news for Australia, with fast bowler Josh Hazlewood rising to No.2 in the world after a superb summer for the ever-reliable quick. Hazlewood took 35 wickets at 15.31 apiece, including his stunning five-for in the second-Test win over New Zealand in Christchurch.

Indian spin king Ravichandran Ashwin is the world's No.1-ranked Test bowler after finishing with a nine-wicket match haul in the fifth-Test drubbing of England. The epic feat in Dharamsala was extra special for Ashwin as it came in his 100th Test match.

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But Hazlewood's rankings rise is just rewards for his super-consistent displays of bowling for Australia. Hazelwood's rise to No.2 sees him complete a seven-year first by equalling the highest-ever position he's held in the ICC Test rankings from back in February 2017.

Seen here, Aussie cricket star Josh Hazlewood.
Josh Hazlewood was rewarded for his fine summer after moving to equal second in the ICC Test bowler standings. Pic: Getty

Hazelwood currently shares second spot with Jasprit Bumrah on 847 points, after the Indian quick previously held the No.1 position. The 33-year-old Hazlewood is not far off his best rating of 864 – achieved in March 2017 – but is still yet to make the top spot.

Only Kapil Dev (877), Ryan Harris (870), Courtney Walsh (868) and Rangana Herath (866) have had higher tallies without ever reaching No.1. Following their Test series sweep of the Kiwis in New Zealand, the Aussies have three bowlers now ranked in the top six of the Test standings, with captain Pat Cummins fifth (820) and spinner Nathan Lyon sixth (801).

with AAP

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