Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 12 December 2019

Australia look to Steve Smith and Muhammad Ali for inspiration against England as they look to revive Ashes fortunes

Coach Langer says team can take heart from incident in boxing legend's youth, going into Wednesday's fourth Test at Old Trafford

Australia head into the fourth Test at Old Trafford on Wednesday hoping that Steve Smith and boxer legend Muhammad Ali can help revive their campaign, after the pain of having the Ashes "stolen" from them by England.

The tourists were on the brink of retaining the famous urn only for Ben Stokes's superb 135 not out delivered England a stunning one-wicket win in the third Test at Headingley.

Stokes's heroics have left the five-match series poised at 1-1 with two to play.

Australia coach Justin Langer said his Ashes-holders would now take heart from an incident in Ali's childhood.

"He got his bike stolen and that was the fire he needed to become the greatest boxer of all time," said Langer, aiming to oversee Australia's first Ashes series win in England for 18 years. "We felt a bit like we got the Ashes stolen the other day. They won that Test match, so we felt a bit like it'd been stolen from us.

"Now we've got to work out what we're going to do, and use that as fire. We're not going to feel sorry for ourselves and let it slip."

Smith, in his first Test series since completing a 12-month ball-tampering ban, scored 144 and 142 in Australia's 251-run win in the opener at Edgbaston before making 92 in the drawn second Test at Lord's.

Marnus Labuschagne, Smith's concussion substitute at Lord's, has made three successive Test fifties since his unexpected promotion into the side and retains his place with Usman Khawaja being dropped to make way for Smith's return. Khawaja has averaged just 20.33 in six innings in the series batting at No 3.

Captain Tim Paine said: "Usman is obviously a key player in the side batting at number three and he hasn't scored the runs that he or we would like.

"With Steve Smith coming back, it was a tough decision to make on Usman.

"He has still got a lot of cricket left in him and has a very good Test record over his career. We expect him to bounce back pretty strongly."

Paceman Mitchell Starc has also returned to the squad having been overlooked for the first three Tests, with James Pattinson dropping out. Paine said Starc bowled "superbly" in last week's practice match against Derbyshire and is in contention for a recall.

Meanwhile, England paceman Stuart Broad, the hosts' leading bowler this series with 14 wickets at 25.35, was eager to see Smith face Archer again.

"I'm sure when Steve comes in Jofra will be in [England captain] Joe Root's ear wanting the ball," Broad said. "I might be stood at mid-on but I'll be excited when Jofra asks for that ball."

Langer, though, was confident Smith could overcome any doubts he may have felt after being felled by Archer.

"When you get hit, it's always a little voice on your shoulder. You've got to have a good strategy and he works the game out better than anyone I've ever met in my life," said Langer. "If anyone's going to get over any little demons, it'll be Steven."

England have also made changes for the Manchester clash with fast bowler Craig Overton replacing the dropped Chris Woakes, while World Cup-winner Jason Roy, struggling as a Test opener, and No 4 Joe Denly swap positions.

Somerset quick Overton was only drafted into the squad after it was confirmed James Anderson, England's all-time leading wicket-taker, was ruled out of the series with a calf injury.

The 25-year-old Overton has played three Tests and bowled Australia's star batsman Smith on debut at Adelaide in December 2017 for his first wicket.

Root, speaking at Old Trafford on Tuesday, said: "This ground does perform slightly differently with an extra bit of bounce and a taller bowler will give us an extra option to go to.

"I feel like that balances out our attack really well in these conditions.

"Craig is a competitor. You saw him come into Ashes cricket on debut and straight away he looked very much at home.

"He got himself in a battle and I expect him to do that this week. I expect him to cause some issues for the Aussie batters."

Updated: September 3, 2019 06:08 PM

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