Australia’s wicketkeeper Tim Paine expects Ben Duckett’s suspension to be raised as a way of distracting England on the field during the Perth Ashes Test, as he joined other members of the home side in denying their sledging of Jonny Bairstow crossed the line into inappropriate personal territory in the first match at the Gabba.
Paine, who also revealed the nature of his Adelaide exchange with England’s captain Joe Root, said the Australians had little time to think about England’s off-field troubles. However he did say that Duckett’s sanction – fined and banned from the remaining England Lions matches – for pouring a drink over the head of the vice-captain James Anderson after the team’s arrival in Perth last week, would likely be used against the tourists.
This would be consistent with the use of Bairstow’s head-to-head encounter with Cameron Bancroft to try to put the English gloveman off his game in Brisbane, and with Australia’s uncompromising approach to a series that invariably carries plenty of ramifications for failure. However Paine said he was surprised to read Bairstow’s comments in a newspaper column that if some words exchanged in Brisbane were ever repeated then he would take the matter up with higher authorities.
“I certainly haven’t heard anything that has crossed the line since I’ve been out there,” Paine said. “I don’t know – it might have been between overs or I was down the other end, I’m not too sure. I said it after the last Test as well, there has been nothing that I’ve heard that has been too untoward or anything that has been particularly nasty. It has just been tough Test match cricket.
“I’m sure someone will bring it [Duckett] up at some stage. But what’s happening in their camp off the field has no effect on the way we’re going to go about our cricket this week. The time we start worrying about them too much is the time when we’re not thinking about our own backyard enough. It hasn’t affected me going out to keep and it’s not going to affect the way our team plays.”
As for the confrontation with Root in England’s second innings, Paine said it had been a case of reminding each other what they were out there for, and what they were not. “There wasn’t too much to it. It was played up a bit,” he said. “He raised his bat to the umpire to let him know he hit the ball. I said just to let the umpire umpire and you bat, he said no worries, you wicket-keep. That was about it.
“I don’t think it has been as bad as it has been made out to be, it has been played in pretty good spirit from what I’ve seen and heard. So I’m sure that won’t change. But what I do know is both teams have – despite what it may look like – a huge amount of respect for each other. And I’m sure this week will be another tough week of Test cricket.”
In making vital first innings runs for the hosts, Paine had to cope with receiving a couple of blows on the finger that he broke repeatedly in past years, to the extent that he was almost forced into retirement. The prospect of another such blow has been a mental as well as physical hurdle for him, so he was understandably happy to come through not only with runs but also minimal new damage.
“I’ve been hit a few times over the last four or five years,” he said of the digit, which was operated on no fewer than seven times before finally settling down. “I was a bit lucky, it kind of missed the bad part of my finger, which was nice. But it’s pulled on really well, had a few days off and been home, so looking forward to this week.”
One thing Paine will not be changing is his desire to take on the short ball, after falling twice to the pull shot in Adelaide, first with a middled shot straight at deep square leg, and then a second innings top edge as Australia sought to extend their lead. A former team-mate and powerful exponent of the shot, Ricky Ponting, has been on hand to encourage Paine not to shelve the stroke. “I’ve always tried to take the short ball on and the pull shot has certainly been a strength of mine for the majority of my career, so I won’t change that,” he said. “I’ll just try and play it a little bit better.
“I did ask him [Ponting] about it and he just said ‘play it better’, which is pretty good advice. The one in the first innings I just hit a little bit better than I thought and the second innings I tried to hit it over the grandstand. I’ll certainly be doing some work on it, I’d be silly not to, but I’ll still look to take it on, just play it better.”
One of Paine’s earliest Sheffield Shield matches was at the WACA Ground, where he made a double-century – still his only first-class hundred – in a Tasmanian win. Judging it to be the hardest place in Australia to start an innings due to the extra bounce, Paine said he would be sad to see major matches moved to the new Perth stadium, now clearly visible from the WACA itself.
“I think all Australian players, domestically and internationally, have enjoyed coming to the WACA,” he said. “It’s a place that other international teams find really uncomfortable, which is again a bonus for us. It’s kind of sad that this will be it for the international game here, but a lot of Australian cricketers and Australian cricket fans will have a lot of great memories from WACA Tests from a long time ago. I’m sure they’ll live on.”