There is no need for Australia to tinker with the batting order despite an inept show in the second Test, asserted home captain Tim Paine acknowledging that a better effort is expected from the top-order in coming games.
Australia scored 195 and 200 in the lost Melbourne Test as none of the batsmen could get a half-century in the match that India won comfortably by eight wickets to level the series on Tuesday.
“Not necessarily, we need to just bat better, it does not matter who is at the crease out there,” Paine said when asked if there could be a change on the cards.
“We need to be scoring runs, that’s the job of the top seven in Australian cricket team,” Paine said at the post match press conference.
Make-shift opener Matthew Wade (30 and 40) and one down Marnus Labuschagne (48 and 28) did get starts but the likes of Joe Burns and Travis Head looked completely out of touch with team’s number one batsman Steve Smith.
The wicket-keeper batsman though admitted that lack of runs and poor fielding contributed to their defeat.
“It (low score) was one of the factors, dropping catches also did not help. It was a bit of sloppy performance in the field and not enough runs,” he said referring to a number of catches that went abegging when Ajinkya Rahane was batting.
Rahane went on to score a game-changing century, cashing in on the dropped chances.
Even in his unbeaten second innings, Rahane was dropped by Mitchell Starc when India were close to the victory. Paine refuted suggestions that Australia perhaps trained differently after the win in Adelaide.
“(We have) same preparation for every Test. It does not change whether we win or lose. Sometimes, in international sport, the margins are very small, we can have swings in result like we have in first and second. We can minimise that, we were (simply) not at our best.”
He also did not agree when suggested that pitches that offer more bounce are more suited to Australian bowlers.
“Not really. We are a side that can win anywhere in the world. It does not bother us at this stage.” The Indians were impressive with their field placing, something for which Rahane earned plaudits.
Both Labuschagne and Smith were scalped by the vising bowlers in perfectly set-up plans but Paine said it does not mean their preparation was any lesser than the Indians. “India are bowling well. They have been extremely disciplined.
-Paine backs Smith to find form-
Paine has backed Steve Smith to find form and lead the team’s batsmen out of their funk after the former skipper’s twin failures in Melbourne.
Smith, the world’s top-ranked Test batsman, was out for his first duck in four years in the first innings and was bowled around his legs by paceman Jasprit Bumrah for eight in the second as India levelled the series 1-1 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
Having scored one and one not out in Australia’s dominant win in the Adelaide opener, Smith is mired in the worst run of Test scores of his career.
Steve Smith is yet to reach a double-digit score in this series. – GETTY IMAGES
India have attacked Smith’s stumps and set heavy leg-side fields, and Paine paid their bowlers credit for not allowing the master batsman to get settled at the crease.
But he added it was not the first time Smith had dealt with such tactics and expected the 31-year-old to work his way through them.
“From what I’ve seen watching, say, Marnus (Labuschagne) and Steve Smith in their Test career, it’s not the first time teams have targeted their stumps,” Paine told reporters.
“That happens every single Test match. Except these (India) guys are executing it better.
“Someone like Steve just hasn’t been able to get in yet. Once he does, he’ll find a way as he always has. The rest of us will follow suit. We need to improve, no doubt about that.”
-Paine hints Warner may play third Test-
Paine hinted that opener David Warner could play the third Test against India while Will Pucovski is also not far from returning to competitive cricket.
Paine said Warner’s recovery is on track and there is a strong possibility of him featuring in the third Test, starting on January 7 in Sydney.
“David looks very good. He has started running between the wickets, so early signs with him very good for the third Test, which is awesome for us,” Paine said at the post-match press conference after Australia lost the second Test by eight wickets.
“Pucovski is not far away to return to play. He is pretty close to return,” he added.
Warner missed the first two Tests and the preceding three T20 Internationals as well as one ODI game against India due to a groin injury. He sustained the injury during the second ODI.
His return would lend solidity to the Australian top-order as Joe Burns has not been consistent though he scored a half-century in the second innings of the Adelaide Test.
If Pucovski is also cleared to play, it will be interesting to see whether he will be asked to open alongside Warner or persist with Burns.
(WITH INPUTS FROM REUTERS)