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Can Steve Smith's County Championship spell aid Ashes hopes?

Australia face hosts England in five Tests across June and July and the tourists hope to see Steve Smith in prime form as they attempt to retain the Ashes.

Having demolished England 4-0 in Australia in the last Ashes series, the Baggy Greens will be confident of success, while knowing that Smith is almost certain to be a key performer in the series.

The 33-year-old right-hander is currently warming up by playing in county cricket with Sussex, with Australia colleagues Marnus Labuschagne and Marcus Harris featuring for Glamorgan and Gloucestershire respectively.

WhatEngland v Australia, 2023 Ashes series
WhereEdgbaston, Lord's, Headingley, Old Trafford, The Oval
WhenFriday 16th June - Monday 31st July 2023
How to watchChannel 9
Odds (outright)England 2.00, Draw 7.00, Australia 2.30

Smith has the best teacher

Smith's only previous experience of county cricket came back in 2011 when he featured for Worcestershire, so surely time spent in the middle during his current spell can only be of benefit for the bigger challenges ahead.

And at Hove he has a fellow top-class international batter to tap for information, with India star Cheteshwar Pujara currently with his fourth different county side - having previously played for Derbyshire, Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire.

Pujara racked up 1,094 runs in just eight County Championship appearances last summer, making five centuries as he averaged an absolutely outstanding 109.40.

And the veteran Indian is at it again already this season, topping the County Championship second division run charts with 468 at 78.00, including three hundreds in six innings.

Smith made 30 in his only knock to date as Sussex drew with Worcs and is due to feature against both Leicestershire and Glamorgan during his time at Hove.

Pujara is the perfect player for Smith to watch and potentially learn from, with both batters accumulators in red-ball cricket rather than fast-scoring, expansive strokemakers.

Smith gets a close look at Robinson

Perhaps a more unexpected positive could come on the bowling front, with Smith able to get a close look at seamer Ollie Robinson, who has emerged to become a key figure in the England pace attack in recent times.

Australia know plenty about veteran pace pair James Anderson and Stuart Broad, but they have come across Robinson just once previously on the Test match stage.

Robinson took 11 wickets at 25.54 in the 2021/22 Ashes series, while his overall Test figures read 66 wickets at 21.27 from 16 appearances to date.

He also showcased his talents with 14 wickets for Sussex in the draw with Worcestershire, so Smith will be only too pleased to get a chance to study a player who looks certain to be in the heat of the action when the Little Urn is on the line.

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Does Smith need to learn much more?

In reality, it may not be that Smith has much to learn during his time with Sussex.

His record in England in Ashes Tests reads 16 matches played, 1,727 runs scored at an average of 59.55, with six centuries and seven 50s having been recorded across 30 innings.

His most recent series in England, back in the summer of 2019, saw him make 774 runs in just four matches, averaging a massive 110.57 and making two centuries in a match at Edgbaston.

His runs of scores that summer read 144, 142, 92, 211, 82, 80 and 23, as the England bowlers found it almost impossible to prevent Smith from dominating.

Overall Smith has made 3,044 runs at 59.68 in 32 Tests against England, so there doesn’t seem to be too much that the former Aussie captain can improve on for the Ashes.

However, he is sure to be keen to take as much as he can from his time at Hove and seeing Pujara and Robinson up close could be the main positives that Smith can take into those all-important Ashes clashes.

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