Why Paine will survive 26-year low
Australia’s next Test series isn’t for another two months when it takes on Pakistan at home and while Tim Paine and Co. deserve to bask in the glory that comes with retaining the Ashes, before long it will be time to don the baggy green again.
Bringing the urn back from England for the first time since 2001 is an incredible achievement.
But the Ashes have also asked some serious questions of the side that will need to be answered throughout the course of the home summer.
Paine has done a remarkable job as captain since stepping into the role after the ball tampering scandal and he needs to take a huge amount of credit for Australia leaving England with the urn.
Some have questioned if he deserves to keep his spot in the team on the back of a poor batting series where he scored 180 runs at an average of 20 — the lowest of any Aussie wicketkeeper in a five-Test series since 1993.
Tim Paine's average of 20.00 this series is the lowest for an Australian wicketkeeper in a five-Test series since 1993. #Ashes— The CricViz Analyst (@cricvizanalyst) September 15, 2019
Paine’s form with the bat has been scratchy but with nobody else screaming out to lead the side — Steve Smith is banned from holding a leadership role until April next year, remember — he will take the reins again this summer.
Vice-captain Head was dropped and is too inexperienced to captain the national side while asking Australia’s other deputy Cummins to take charge would represent a rare instance of a fast bowler being made captain.
So while Paine will likely play out the summer, Australia needs to use this season to look at who can take over once the 34-year-old calls it quits — whenever that may be. Can Smith captain again, as former Aussie skipper Mark Taylor suggested during the Ashes? Does a state captain like Khawaja, if he forces his way back into the team, emerge as a contender?
The reality is with the line-up so uncertain, it’s impossible to groom Paine’s replacement just yet. But the Australian hierarchy will be hoping by summer’s end, it will have found a settled side and identified a future leader.
Australia’s top order was dysfunctional all series. Cameron Bancroft — who has failed to cement his place after two underwhelming stints in the team — and No. 3 Usman Khawaja were dropped after the second and third Ashes Tests but any hopes a re-jig would bring about a change in fortunes were crushed as Stuart Broad ran riot.
David Warner scored 95 runs and averaged 9.5, becoming the first opener in Test history to register eight single-figure efforts in a Test series. His partner for the last three matches, Marcus Harris, managed just 58 runs at 9.66.
It was a series from hell for Warner.Source:Getty Images
Warner has credits in the bank but can you really play someone who hit less runs than Steve Smith did boundaries? Harris showed promise in six Tests during the last home summer without converting starts into a big score and after his latest flop, do you keep the faith in his potential or conclude an average of 24.06 after nine Tests simply doesn’t cut it?
If Harris and Bancroft are cast aside, Joe Burns is the obvious candidate to come in after scoring 180 in his last Test but unluckily missing out on a spot in the Ashes touring squad. NSW’s Daniel Hughes may also jump into contention with loads of runs to start the Shield season.
Marnus Labuschagne impressed at No. 3, averaging over 50, so does that mean if Khawaja wants to wear the baggy green again he’ll have to do so as an opener rather than in his customary first drop position? Or after being dropped at 32 is his international career on the rocks?
Below Labuschagne and Smith, spots are still up in the air. Matthew Wade would have been under pressure to keep his place but after scoring a classy century in his last innings at The Oval — his second ton of the series — the left-hander has likely secured his position for the first Test of the summer.
Travis Head was dropped after averaging 27.3 across eight digs and while a Test average of 42.7 from 12 matches is healthy, he’s only scored one century against an understrength Sri Lankan side since making his debut. An inability to make the most of his starts — similar to Harris — will be frustrating him but he’s long been touted as a future star of Australian cricket so it would be a big move by the selectors to keep him sidelined.
Labuschagne and Smith were a clear level above the rest.Source:Getty Images
Mitchell Marsh was parachuted in for the final Test and took seven wickets for the match but he’s unlikely to keep his spot at No. 6. With the pacemen fresh at the start of the summer, he won’t be needed to provide any bowling cover and he doesn’t earn a spot on the back of his batting.
Ricky Ponting has touted young gun Will Pucovski as a possible starter at No. 6 against Pakistan. The best young batting talent in the country, the 21-year-old Victorian was around the Australian squad last summer but didn’t make his debut. If he’s overcome mental health issues that have interrupted his career, upcoming series against Pakistan and New Zealand could be the perfect time to blood him.
Not to be forgotten is Kurtis Patterson, who scored a century in the second of his two Tests against Sri Lanka. Another who was unlucky not to make the Ashes squad, the left-hander is certainly a viable middle order option and will be on the selectors’ radar if he starts the Shield season strongly.
Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood, with 29 wickets and 20 wickets for the series respectively, walk into the starting XI if fit alongside Nathan Lyon as the spinner — but the third fast bowling option is less certain.
Peter Siddle was a horses for courses selection in English conditions, picked to hold up an end and while he performed admirably in the UK, he’s a rank outsider to play at The Gabba.
Mitchell Starc played just one Test and has fallen down the pecking order after being a certain selection in recent years, and James Pattinson is providing added competition after finally working his way back from a horror injury run.
Cummins is a lock.Source:Getty Images
Pattinson played two Tests and how often he appears this summer will depend on how much cricket his body can manage.
Michael Neser was the only player in the Ashes squad not to get a game but the Queensland quick remains an option, as are consistent performers on the domestic front Chris Tremain and Jackson Bird. Whether or not the same rotation we saw in England is applied to Australian conditions, we’ll have to wait and see.
As sweet as it is to retain the urn, Australia will be ruing the fact it couldn’t finish the Ashes as the outright winner.
Stealing defeat from the jaws of victory at Headingley and putting up its sloppiest performance of the series at The Oval resulted in a 2-2 scoreline. It’s still better than any Aussie side has managed in the last four tours of the UK but coach Justin Langer admitted it was a “hollow” feeling watching his team celebrate after letting a golden opportunity slip.
The Aussies won, but it wasn’t as good as it could have been.Source:AFP
Winning away from home is the hardest thing to do in Test cricket, as the Aussies know. They haven’t won a series on foreign soil since defeating New Zealand at the beginning of 2016.
Recent trips to the UAE (against Pakistan), South Africa, India and Sri Lanka have all ended in defeat while a visit to Bangladesh finished in a drawn series.
It’s hard to win at all when you don’t know what your best XI is and winning away is even more difficult, but Australia will be looking to conquer its next overseas challenge when wearing the whites.
Marnus Labuschagne (No. 3), Steve Smith (No. 4), Matthew Wade (No. 5 or 6), Tim Paine (No. 7), Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood, Nathan Lyon
Two opening batting spots: David Warner, Marcus Harris, Cameron Bancroft, Joe Burns, Daniel Hughes, Usman Khawaja
Middle order spot: Travis Head, Joe Burns, Kurtis Patterson, Mitchell Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Peter Handscomb, Will Pucovski
Third fast bowler: Mitchell Starc, James Pattinson, Michael Neser, Peter Siddle, Chris Tremain, Jackson Bird.