Ashes scare: Steve Smith floored by sickening neck blow
Lord's went deathly silent and Steve Smith lay on the turf after copping a sickening blow to the neck on day four of the second Ashes Test.
Debutant Jofra Archer was in the middle of a frighteningly quick spell and had been testing the former Australian cricket captain with a barrage of seriously fast bouncers that had him hopping around the crease.
After already striking Smith with a blow some speculated may have broken his arm, the second session took a terrifying turn a short time later when Smith was unable to get out of the way of a searing Archer bumper.
On 80, Australia's best batsman tried to get out of the way of the ball but it was simply too quick and the six-stitcher crashed into his neck.
Batting at the Nursery End, Smith fell to the ground immediately just to the right of where he was taking guard on the edge of the pitch. Everyone knew it was serious and while the crowd was getting rowdy in the middle of Archer's incredibly hostile spell, spectators at the ground went quiet when Smith hit the deck.
England's players rushed to his side and umpires immediately called for assistance as Australia's medical staff ran out onto the ground.
Smith managed to get his helmet off straight away and then rested his head on his forearm. He was able to roll onto his back and tried to take his gloves off but couldn't, then rolled onto his side as Australian team doctor Richard Saw arrived on the scene.
On Twitter, former Australian women's captain Lisa Sthalekar said "I feel sick" having seen the scary incident and Channel 9's Ashes anchor Todd Woodbridge called it "gut-wrenching viewing".
Play came to a halt for a lengthy amount of time as the medicos showed great care for Smith. He eventually got back his feet and continued to be assessed by the doctor.
After the lengthy break Mr Saw made the precautionary decision for Smith to go off and he was escorted from the middle to undergo testing as everyone at Lord's gave him a standing ovation.
He underwent the necessary medical testing and later returned to continue his innings and he added 12 more runs before being dismissed for 92.
QUESTIONS OVER ARCHER'S RESPONSE
While England players were quick to check on Smith's welfare, some on social media took aim at Archer for appearing to smile not long after the batsman was floored as players waited around while Smith received medical attention.
Some also questioned whether the paceman went to see if Smith was OK with the TV broadcast leaving people with the impression Archer turned away from the scene rather quickly.
Fox Sports presenter Neroli Meadows was among those to query Archer's response, as was former Australian politician Jamie Briggs.
However, others on social media suggested Archer may have walked away in the immediate aftermath out of shock rather than any indifference to Smith.
He was seen smiling next to Jos Buttler but it is unclear what drew that response.
I know it’s Test cricket and it’s brutal but that was one of the nastier hits you’ll see. Absolutely flush to the head. Archer laughing doesn’t sit comfortably with me. Am I alone?— Neroli Meadows (@Neroli_M_FOX) August 17, 2019
Archer laughing while Smith is on the ground— Tom Chadwick (@TomChadwick_7) August 17, 2019
I know who should be boo’ed
Don’t mind seeing the hostility from Archer, very reminiscent of Johnson 13-14 Ashes. But reckon when you hit someone: 1. You go and check on them and 2. You have enough class not to laugh. #Ashes19 #Ashes— James Mottershead (@mottersjames) August 17, 2019
Pretty graphic, that, Steve Smith retching when he hit the floor. Archer and co wouldn’t have known instantly how serious that could have been but could have done without the smiles in the circumstances. So similar to Phil Hughes tragedy #Ashes #SteveSmith pic.twitter.com/2mtQu4irty— Chris Skudder (@chris_skudder) August 17, 2019
HUGHES TRAGEDY SPRINGS TO MIND
Coach Justin Langer suggested the scary incident brought back memories of Phil Hughes' tragic death in 2014 after he was hit on the neck while batting.
The area where Smith was hit looked similar to where Hughes was struck, and the way Smith fell forward onto his front was also similar to the way Hughes reacted when he copped the blow during a Sheffield Shield game.
"You never like seeing your players get hit like that, no doubt about that," Langer said. "There's obviously some pretty rough memories of a blow like that so … there was no fun in it.
"There was a lot of chat, all of a sudden the concussion rule comes in and so probably the initial bit when we make sure he's OK then we saw him in the medical room and he was a bit rattled but he wasn't too bad.
"Then you start thinking about the professional side of it - who's going to be the replacement and all that sort of stuff but then as time progressed he went through all the concussion protocols and he seemed to be coming up OK.
"He passed all that then he came back in the changeroom and he had a bit of a smile on his face. He was more worried about his arm actually - his arm was sore."
Asked if he was surprised to see Smith return to the crease wen the next wicket fell, Langer said: "He was determined. All that he was worried about was that he wasn't going to be able to play his forward defence because it was hurting with his top-hand grip. That's all he was worried about."
NO CONCUSSION SUB NEEDED
Smith was evaluated for symptoms of concussion and assessed under Cricket Australia's head impact protocol. There was talk among commentators Australia may need to use a concussion substitute for the first time in Test cricket history.
Teams have the option of replacing a player who suffers a head or neck injury during the match and is diagnosed with concussion or suspected of being concussed.
But Smith passed all the necessary tests and was cleared to keep playing and it wasn't long before he was back in the middle when Peter Siddle was caught behind.
His comeback was incredible. Smith slammed Chris Woakes over the leg side for four then punched him off the back foot to the cover boundary very next ball.
Smith was on the verge of scoring his third century of the series, making his way to 92 before a somewhat comical misjudgment ended his stay at the crease. He shouldered arms to a Woakes delivery but he didn't realise it was an inswinger that darted back into him.
The ball struck him on the pads right in front of the stumps and there was no saving the 30-year-old as the umpire raised his finger, ending a sensational innings.
Smith will be monitored on an ongoing basis.
He wasn't wearing the neck guards on his helmet that were introduced after Phil Hughes' death and doesn't wear them because he finds them uncomfortable.
Smith scored 144 and 142 in the first Test of the series and all the talk after his spectacular performance at Edgbaston was how England could possibly stop him reaching three figures again in London.
Archer's introduction into the team - replacing the injured Jimmy Anderson - was hoped to be one change that would give England captain Joe Root and extra weapon at his disposal as he looked for new ways to unsettle the world's best player.
Archer starred for England during its World Cup triumph and his extra pace and ability to generate steep bounce was expected to be a useful commodity in the Test arena.
It proved that way, though probably not in the fashion we were expecting as his vicious bouncer brought the Test to a standstill.
Amazingly, Archer's fourth spell was his quickest of the Test. Having bowled so many overs already you would have expected him to tire out but he was consistently hitting the 150km/h mark - and even going above it - as he unleashed a fearsome few overs that terrorised the Aussies.
Prior to hitting Smith on the neck, Archer nailed him on the forearm. Smith was in agony and the doctor and physio came out to treat him as the game stopped.
There were fears his arm may have been broken but it was only bruised. Smith's arm was heavily strapped and he wore a compression bandage to reduce swelling.
He was given a painkiller and also iced the affected area when he returned to the dressing room after being struck on the neck.
Smith went for an X-Ray but there is no fracture.