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Australian batsmen under fire heading into fourth Ashes Test, says coach

Australia's under-performing batsmen have been told to sharpen up, as coach Justin Langer prepares to axe the team's weakest link.

A Ben Stokes century helped England level the series in an amazing one-wicket win at Headingley as the hosts chased down 359 at Headingley.

Although it was the bowlers who ultimately failed to get the job done at Leeds, having rolled England for 67 in their first innings on Saturday, Australia's under-par second innings score of 246 in good batting conditions on the back of 179 on day one came back to bite them.

Only Marnus Labuschagne and David Warner passed 50 in the match for Australia who will desperately hope to have Steve Smith back for the fourth Test at Old Trafford starting on September 4.

Smith faced bowlers for the first time in the nets at Leeds on Sunday since his concussion at Lord's in the second Test and will play against Derbyshire this week.

Langer said the match will shape as a bat off for places with Labuschagne now cemented in the side after three successive half-centuries since coming in for Smith.

"There's actually going to be some big questions," Langer said.

"One thing I do know is we're not batting well enough at the moment. I said at the start of the series that the team that bats best will win the Ashes.

"We're certainly not at our best with our batting at the moment. We've got some real questions to ask for the practice game then the fourth Test match."

Usman Khawaja appears to be the player most at risk having failed to pass 50 in any of his six innings and been caught behind by Jonny Bairstow in all of them.

Vice-captain Travis Head has not more than the 50 he scored in the second innings of the first Test at Edgbaston and aside from his hundred in that same match, Matthew Wade has passed single figures just one other time in six visits to the crease.

Langer admits it is going to be tough to decide who will miss out and said giving players a break after back-to-back Test matches is also something he needs to mindful off for the Derby game.

"Well we can't fit them all in, that's one issue we've got," he said.

"We've also got to work out after a long summer, we're going to have to rest some players. Just to give them a mental freshen up more than anything.

"Who do we give a break to? Who do we play? all those sort of things we'll have to ask.

"There's a number of guys who will be looking to play well. Not just Uzzy.

"Uzzy's played a lot of cricket, he averages over 40 in Test Match cricket. he got a test hundred seven innings ago.

"We know he's a very good player and he, like the rest of them, will be working hard to be ready for the fourth Test."

James Pattinson, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins will be rested for the Derby match, with Michael Neser, Mitchell Starc and Peter Siddle set to play.

Australia Test captain Tim Paine. Source: Photosport


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