Under the leadership of new Test captain Tim Paine, Australia’s bowlers are taking back the duty of keeping the red ball shining.
Paine’s new leadership regime started on Saturday as the first Test against Pakistan in Dubai got underway. Paine has brought a fresh new approach to the Australian side, including such changes as ensuring his players take the time to shake hands with their opponents before the start of a match, to ensuring the bowlers take responsibility for shining the ball on the field.
‘They’ve taken a bit more ownership of the ball and they’ve got to bowl with it. I think that’s a good idea,’ said Paine. ‘We’ll have some guys probably holding it a bit more while the bowlers are bowling and they’re traditionally going to be sweating a bit more, but I think in cricket teams I’ve been in, the bowlers tend to be pushed aside and the batters take over the ball.’
This thinking comes after ‘Sandpapergate’ in the Newlands Test when Cameron Bancroft was caught tampering with the ball, aided and abetted by team leaders David Warner and Steve Smith. All three players are now banned by Australia, Paine has taken over the senior leadership role, and it’s perhaps inevitable that shining the ball would be top of the agenda for their new-look team, which includes Test debutant Marnus Labuschagne, the Klerksdorp-born 24-year-old who has earned a Test call-up despite having played just 35 first-class matches and scored just 2,147 first-class runs.
‘We’ve spoken to our quicks. We’ve got Starc [Mitchell Stac] and Sidds [Peter Siddle] who are really experienced, they exactly know what they want to do, and it’s up to the rest of us to support them. [The Test square] looks pretty much like how I’ve always seen it here, it looked pretty flat. The interesting thing was the square around it because of the Asia Cup was really, really dry, so there’ll be some chances for quite a bit of reverse swing, but we’ll see how it goes,’ added Paine.
Aussie opener Starc is the only pacemen in the side playing in the first Test against Pakistan who played in the Newlands Test and he admitted that the role of their pace attack in Dubai would be limited.
‘The square is quite bare so there’s every chance the ball will get scuffed up just from the wicket,’ said Starc. ‘Hopefully for the fast bowlers reverse swing plays a bit of a part, the spinners are a big weapon in this part of the world and the way Nathan Lyon and Jon Holland bowled in the tour game was fantastic for us. We change the roles of the fast bowlers over here and it’s a bit more of a supportive role and the spinners come into the game a lot sooner and a lot more effective as well.’
Paine anticipates the action in the first Test to hot up as the pitch wears towards the fourth and fifth days.
‘Traditionally over here it probably hasn’t [done] a lot until really late in the game. Over here it’s about being patient, playing the long game and the first three or four days can move really slowly and we’ve got to be prepared for that and fight really hard and be as patient as we can, and make sure we get to that later stage of the game and we’re right in it,’ added Paine.
‘We’ve discussed it as a group and some senior players who’ve been here before and a real key for us is a patience game over here. We’ve got to change a little bit the way Australian teams have played, we’re always an aggressive type of cricket side and obviously, that hasn’t worked over here in the past. It’s a great opportunity for us to show that we’re prepared to change the way we play and adapt to different conditions.’
Pakistan are 136-0 after 44 overs and are batting at 3.09 runs per over. Imam-ul-Haq is not out on 51 off 133 balls (six fours, one six), and Mohammad Hafeez is on 74 off 132 balls (nine fours).
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