Ashes 2019: Steven Smith and David Warner return to Tests – The numbers that matter
David Warner and Steven Smith return to Tests after more than a year. © AFP

On August 1, as the 2019 Ashes series gets underway at Edgbaston between hosts England and Australia, Steven Smith and David Warner will return to Test cricket.

It will be the first Test match for the former Australia captain and vice-captain since March 2018, when Smith and Warner were served 12-month bans for their role in the ball-tampering scandal that broke during the Cape Town Test last year.

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So what exactly have Australia missed in the Tests since Smith and Warner were absent?

Steve Smith Test career

Since the time that Australia last toured England for an Ashes series in July 2015, Smith has scored 3104 runs in 54 Test innings at an average of 67.47 with 12 hundreds and 12 fifties. In that same period, Warner has 2714 runs in 56 innings, scoring nine hundreds and ten fifties while averaging 50.25.

These are staggering numbers from Australia’s top two batsmen.

Since this is an away series for Australia, let us reduce the numbers to purely Tests away from home: Smith averages 50.76 after scoring 1269 runs in 27 innings, with five centuries and five half-centuries; Warner 31.96 after scoring 683 runs in as many innings, but with two hundreds and four fifties.

David Warner Test career

If we isolate the numbers to Ashes contests played on English soil, the numbers dip.

From 15 Test innings in England, Warner has 555 runs at 37.06 with six half-centuries, Smith 853 from 18 at an average of 47.38 with three centuries and three half-centuries.

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Cameron Bancroft has been penciled in to join Warner and Smith for the first Ashes Test on Thursday, and his role cannot be undermined either. Opening the innings with Warner on 14 occasions, Bancroft has helped score 732 runs at an average of 56.30 with two hundred-plus opening stands and four of at least 50.

Australia’s batting was a cause of concern since the controversial tour of South Africa in March-April 2018, in which Smith, Warner and Cameron Bancroft were suspended. Australia lost all five ODIs in England, managed a draw in the first Test against Pakistan in the UAE thanks to epic contributors from Usman Khawaja and skipper Tim Paine but were beaten by 373 runs in Abu Dhabi. In that record loss, no batsman managed a fifty in innings of 145 and 164.

Cameron Bancroft Ashes
Cameron Bancroft raises his bat after reaching 50 during the warmup game. (Image: Twitter)

During the four-Test series at home against India, which Australia lost, their batsmen struggled to contend with India’s top-class pace attack.

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The debutant Marcus Harris scored the most runs (258) with two fifties. Travis Head was the only other player to get to 200, scoring 237 at 33.85 with two fifties as well. Usman Khawaja went into a shell and ended with 198 runs at 28.28, Shaun Marsh averaged 26.14, Paine 24.85 and Pat Cummins (163 runs) and Mitchell Starc (117) scored more runs than Peter Handscomb, Aaron Finch and Mitchell Marsh.

When Sri Lanka visited for two Test in the new year, Australia’s rejigged batting lineup fared better. Head, promoted to vice-captain, got 304 runs in three innings; the recalled Joe Burns got 180 in one innings; the debutant Kurtis Patterson and Khawaja also scored centuries and Marnus Labuschagne managed his maiden Test fifty.

Now, with Bancroft, Warner and Smith returning, the Australian batting will again be re-shaped. Warner and Bancroft will open at Edgbaston, followed by Khawaja at No 3 and Smith at No 4. Head will most likely slot in after Smith, with Paine possibly joined by Matthew Wade, playing as a specialist batsman, or Mitchell Marsh.

The Ashes start at Edgbaston followed by a week’s break before the second match at Lord’s. The series will then shift to Leeds – the northernmost venue of the contest – for the third Test at Headingley, and then to Old Trafford for the fourth Test and finally at The Oval for the last fixture.