Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann might think Steve Smith will be vulnerable at first drop in the Ashes, but former England captain Michael Vaughan has given short shrift to his compatriots’ sledging.
Key quick Broad and ex-spinner Swann have suggested England are licking their lips at the prospect of testing out Smith’s technique at No.3 in the upcoming five-Test series.
But Vaughan begs to differ.
“I think he (Smith) will have a really good series,” Vaughan told reporters in London ahead of the Cardiff opener starting July 8.
“I know England are trying to pick at him a bit and his technique, and it is vulnerable against the swinging ball, but I think he’s got as good a game awareness as I’ve seen.
“His technique is not one that you’d get out of the coaching manual, but his hands are so good and his eyes are obviously so very good at picking up the length of the ball so quickly.”
Indeed, Vaughan believes the Ashes could be Smith’s time to shine.
“He’s gone to number one in the world, this is his moment.
“Really great players, as soon as they get to an Ashes series, they go ‘Right this is me’.”
Vaughan, who in 2005 led England to their first Ashes win since Mike Gatting was in charge in 1986/87, also lavished praise on Australian captain Michael Clarke.
He was asked by hopeful English journalists if the hosts could capitalise on a perception that Clarke isn’t beloved by all the Aussie players.
“He’s a great captain,” Vaughan replied.
“You say he’s not as popular as some, but it works and it’s working for Australia.
“They probably all fear him a little bit, which is good.
“His tactical nous is right up there with the best. I think he reads the game quicker than most captains and he’s always ahead of the game by a few overs.”
The 40-year-old is hoping England can put up more of a fight than when they lost to Australia 5-0 in 2013/14.
At least four current England players could make the Australian first XI now, Vaughan said, whereas 18 months ago none would have.
A combined team would see Alastair Cook at the top of the order with David Warner followed by Smith.
“(Then) Rooty (Joe Root) would get in, you’d want Clarkey to captain and Jimmy Anderson would sneak in with Jos Buttler ahead of Brad Haddin,” Vaughan said at a Hardys of Australia wine tasting event in central London.
The ex-England batsman said allrounder Ben Stokes could possibly make the grade ahead of Mitchell Marsh too.
“(At least) four would get in, so I guess that makes it a little bit closer than the end of the Ashes last time when not one of them would have.
“They’re getting closer and playing at home is a big advantage.”