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Ashes 2021-22: Subdued Australian star Steve Smith no joy for battered England

An uncharacteristically quiet series from Steve Smith counts for nothing in the mind of express paceman Mark Wood, given England’s inability to win this summer.

Smith earned man-of-the-series honours in the 2017-18 and 2019 Ashes, demoralising England as he compiled a combined tally of 1461 runs.

The former skipper’s output in his past six Test knocks has been a relatively modest 217 runs at 36.2.

“We’ve been getting battered. It would be a moral victory if he was getting out and we were winning,” Wood said on the eve of the fifth Test.

“We’re still not bowling them out.

“He might not have had a hundred but getting 90, 50, 60 or 70 is vital in the game.

“He’s still contributing to their team winning.

“At the minute we’re not winning, so it’s important that we turn that around.”

Wood has been England’s most impressive bowler on this tour, having recently had the wood on Marnus Labuschagne.

Wood has removed Labuschagne three times in 22 balls since the right-hander became the world’s No.1 Test batter, finding an edge on every occasion.

“Marnus is one hell of a player, so I’m pleased to get top players out like him,” Wood said of the series’ leading run-scorer.

“He’s a guy that we certainly know we need to try and capitalise on the first 20 balls of his innings, really put him under pressure.

“Because if he gets in, he does a lot of damage.”

England are yet to make a call on whether Ben Stokes and Jonny Bairstow, who suffered a side and thumb injury respectively, will play the series finale in Hobart.

Wood urged Stokes and Bairstow to make the right call on the team, admitting it was something he didn’t always do during the early stages of an injury-plagued career.

“They’re in good spirits,” Wood said.

“They’re two characters who don’t give up easily.

“We’ll just have to see.

“I’m sure they’ll not want to go into the game unless they’re certain they can provide what’s needed.

“I’ve been there myself, where you’ve played and you’re not doing yourself or the team justice.”

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