The fourth day of the Lord's Test saw an epic duel between Steve Smith and Jofra Archer. Smith battled the conditions brilliantly to his seventh consecutive fifty-plus score against England in the Ashes 2019. However, he encountered a fierce spell of bowling from Archer who regularly bowled in excess of 90 mph, including one delivery which was clocked at 96.1 mph. On 75, Smith suffered a blow to the side of his neck and after some concussion tests, he retired hurt and was escorted off the field. However, he resumed and smashed a couple of centuries off Chris Woakes before being trapped LBW for 92.
Speaking after the end of the match, Australia coach Justin Langer said the team did not take an undue risk in sending Smith out to bat but revealed that Smith insisted on going back to bat after he retired following the blow on the back of his back, protesting that he needed to be given the chance to make a century at the home of cricket. "He had the concussion testing and passed all that and that's why he came back out to bat. These are like my sons alright, so you're never going to put them in harm's way, even though you're always in harm's way with Test cricket. What else do you do? The medicos cleared him, he wanted to get out there. He was saying 'mate, I've got to get out there, I can't get on the honour board unless I'm out batting'," Langer said.
Ever since the death of Phillip Hughes who died after being hit on the side of the neck by a bouncer from Sean Abbott in 2014 at the Sydney Cricket Ground, the International Cricket Council (ICC) had introduced neck guards in the helmet but had not made it mandatory. Langer said the Smith incident could prompt the ICC to make neck guards mandatory.
"It might be my error but I didn't realise they weren't mandatory until today. At the moment the players have a choice, and I wouldn't be surprised if they become mandatory in the future. I'm sure after today it will get talked about again, I know they came in after the tragedy of Hughesy. So I'm sure it will get talked about, and he might rethink it now after seeing what happened today, but you would have to ask him that," Langer said.
Smith had revealed in his book that neck guards had made him uncomfortable and it continues his list of growing idiosyncracies in which Smith tapes up his bootlaces so that he cannot see them and he also does not like his boots to be dirty. Smith's 92 has given Australia some parity as England stretched their lead past 100 with only one day remaining in the Ashes Test at Lord's.