Captain Paine eases our pain

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AUSTRALIA’S win in Perth is no one-off, says cricket writer KEN PIESSE.  Tim Paine’s team can go all the way and win the series from here:

RARELY  before has an Australian captain being so unanimously applauded and supported as Tim Paine right now. Australia’s cricket coach Justin Langer says Paine does not have a peer in the world when it comes to keeping wickets — and, as a leader, his strides are sure and increasingly confident.

Last March at Newlands, Paine was tapped on the shoulder. “You’re captain,” he was told. There was no argument, no conversation. Steve Smith and David Warner were on the next plane home. Good luck.

The Australians were blown away in each of the final Tests in South Africa and  beaten again in the season starter in Adelaide. Three from three. It was hardly the start a new captain wanted.

Yet throughout the rebuilding process, Paine has remained super solid and  controlled.

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Told by Virat Kohli that he was nothing but a stand-in, Paine, 34, is playing the best cricket of his life.

At 1-1, Australia has a chance of recapturing the Border-Gavaskar Trophy. Not too many would have predicted that coming to the two showpiece Tests of the summer.

Despite the presence of Kohli, maybe the finest visiting batsmen to play in Australia since Viv or Barry Richards, Australia enters the final Tests with genuine hopes of a series win.

The cool and calm Paine has been pivotal both with the gloves and with the bat in the middle order.

Among Aussie keepers, only Adam Gilchrist has a superior batting average and even Gilly would admit that Paine’s assured glovework is as good.

The last Tests shape as a promoter’s dream. We just have to have a wicket good enough to provide the biggest holiday crowds of the summer with the entertainment which was so lacking this time last summer.

Australia’s final XI? Handscomb in? Handscomb out?

Will Finch play his first home town Test?

Will  vice-captain and allrounder Mitchell Marsh come into the team and actually be trusted to have a bowl in the first 70 overs?

He seems to be the one most likely to be reprieved, if only to provide some bowling back-up for the top four.

In Paine he may have a bigger ally than Steve Smith, who hardly rated his bowling at all.

Unless there is an injury to any of the Big Three new ball bowlers, Chris Tremain looks likely to watch from the sidelines again. He is a quality reserve and will do well once he finally gets his break.

I’d go with the same top four, slot Travis Head up to five and have M. Marsh at six. Then Paine and the four bowlers.

Can they beat India and go 2-1 up heading for Sydney? Course they can.

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Author: Ken Piesse

KEN PIESSE has covered cricket and football for more than 30 years in Melbourne. He has written, edited and published more than 70 sports books. Signed copies of his latest cricket book Heroes of the Hour, cricket’s quintessential moments from Bradman and Lillee to Warne and Steve Smith, is available from www.cricketbooks.com.au

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