Injury scare for Steve Smith as Australia beaten in second ODI in Sri Lanka | Australia cricket team

Australia will be sweating on the fitness of Steve Smith after the star batsman appeared to tweak a leg muscle during their 26-run ODI loss to Sri Lanka. Chasing 216 for victory off 43 overs under the Duckworth-Lewis-Stern method on Thursday (Friday AEST), Australia was on track at 170-5 with Glenn Maxwell in hot form at Pallekele.

But Maxwell’s departure for 30 off 25 balls and the run-out of Alex Carey (15) sparked a collapse of 19-5 as Australia was bowled out for 189 in 37.1 overs. Sri Lanka had posted 220-9 in 47.4 overs before a rain delay of more than two hours halted proceedings, and the home side’s fighting victory leveled the five-match series at 1-1.

Sri Lanka paceman Chamika Karunaratne was the hero with 3-47, snaring the key scalps of Smith and Maxwell to go with his run-out of Carey. Smith called for medical attention after pulling up lame while pushing hard for a second run during Australia’s unsuccessful run chase.

With the two-Test series against Sri Lanka starting on 29 June, Australia will be hoping Smith’s setback is nothing more than a minor niggle. The 33-year-old received strapping to the thigh area on his left leg and was able to bat on. Smith was dismissed a few overs later for 28.

Australia has endured a horror run with injuries during the tour, with Ashton Agar (side), Marcus Stoinis (side), Sean Abbott (finger), Kane Richardson (hamstring), Mitchell Starc (finger), and Mitch Marsh (hamstring) all injured. Stoinis, Abbott, and Richardson have already been sent home, while Agar is not guaranteed to play again on tour.

“I’m not playing any more of the one-dayers,” Agar said. “I’ve got a bit of a tear in my side, which isn’t great. Hopefully, maybe around the second Test match [I can return], being optimistic.”

Steve Smith

Agar’s injury had a silver lining, with debutant spinner Matthew Kuhnemann proving he will be more than a handy backup ahead of next year’s ODI World Cup in India. Kuhnemann snared 2-48 off ten overs in an impressive ODI debut, with the left-arm adapting to the conditions expertly.

Mitchell Swepson sometimes struggled in his third ODI appearance, finishing with 1-58 off his ten overs. Maxwell was full of smiles on the way to 2-35 off ten overs, while quicks Pat Cummins (4-35 off 8.4 overs) and Josh Hazlewood (0-26 off seven) were at their impressive best.

But the performance of Kuhnemann would have given the national selectors the biggest satisfaction, given the need for spinning depth at the 2023 ODI World Cup.

“We were on our way to get on the team bus for the Aussie A squad,” Kahneman explained of his call-up. “I got a tap on the shoulder from the selector on tour, and he told myself and [Travis]Head to pack our bags and get to Kandy as soon as possible.

“It’s been pretty crazy. Pretty overwhelmed at the moment. I was so nervous. When Finchy told me I would open the bowling alongside Josh, I didn’t know what to expect.”

Bella E. McMahon
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