Australia’s stand-in captain Tim Paine admitted that they did not put up a fight on their way to a comprehensive 322-run third Test defeat by South Africa at Newlands.
Speaking to journalists after the game, Paine, who was thrust into the captaincy role at the last minute, called the last 24 hours ‘strange, horrible and bizarre’ before explaining how his temporary promotion to lead the team for the remainder of the Test match came about.
Smith will miss the last Test at the Wanderers in Johannesburg starting on Friday after he was given a one-match suspension by the ICC for owning up to allegations of ball tampering, which saw him stood down as captain of the team on day four.
The Australians were almost a different team on Sunday as they surrendered to a fired-up Proteas side, who eventually won the game by a massive margin of 322 runs.
‘We just had a quick chat as we do as a team every morning and Steve and Dave both announced they’re both stepping down and I was told by the team selectors that I’d be captain for the day,’ said Paine, who was playing in just his 12th Test.
‘It was extremely difficult, but it’s no excuse for what you saw in the last 45 minutes. We’re still the Australian cricket team and we’re expected to put up a bit better effort than what we did today. But it was in trying circumstances that we brought on ourselves.’
Having to face Australia without Smith was very comforting, said Proteas skipper Faf du Plessis. Despite Smith struggling through the series, Du Plessis felt the visitors would be losing two players for the fourth Test.
‘It’s very comforting [knowing he won’t be there]. He’s a very good batsman and somehow we’ve managed to keep a player of his calibre quiet. It’s almost like the Australian team have lost two players in one because he’s such a strong batter, and I do believe that his leadership is good for the team,’ Du Plessis told journalists after sealing the victory. ‘He’ll be a big loss for them.’
The Proteas skipper empathised with Smith, but felt Sunday’s offence was worse than the one that landed him in hot water Down Under, which resulted in him being followed by photographers wherever he went.
‘I can understand it’s a tough time for him right now. The situation I found myself in was difficult for me as well because people were attacking me, my personality and my character, and I felt it was wrong, it wasn’t fair. I don’t know how he feels about his own personal situation but I can imagine it’s a very tough time for him.
‘Ball shining and ball tampering are two completely different situations and one is definitely more serious than the other,’ he added.
Photo: EJ Langer/Gallo Images