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Australia vs India, 3rd Test

Australia vs India, 3rd Test

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Tim Paine said scratching a guard is something Smith did regularly with no intention of removing another player’s mark

Australia have closed ranks around Steven Smith and his habit of shadow batting and re-marking guard during matches, after stump camera footage that showed him doing so during Rishabh Pant’s SCG innings raised suspicions of sharp practice.

In an episode not a million miles away from when Justin Langer once tapped the bails off during a Test in Sri Lanka in 2004, an extension of his habit of touching them regularly when walking past as a fielder, Smith was seen shadow batting at Pant’s end as if left-handed and then scraping his spikes down the line of middle.

While he apologised for his own behaviour during a Test match that Australia would most likely have won without him dropping three critical catches on the final day, Paine was adamant that Smith had meant nothing sinister or annoying to Pant by what he had done on the crease line. Even so, Paine conceded that Smith would need to reconsider venturing into those areas in future “because of the perception of it”.

“I’m glad you asked that, because I have spoken to Steve about this. And I know he’s really disappointed with the way it’s come across. If you’ve watched Steve Smith play Test cricket, that’s something he does every single game, five or six times a day,” Paine said. “He’s always standing in the batting crease, shadow batting. We know he’s got those many Steve Smith quirks and one of them is he’s always marking centre.

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