India v Australia, 1st Test, Mohali, 2nd day October 2, 2010

Determined Paine wins battle against spin

Unlike several other Australian batsmen who've used aggression to combat India's slow bowlers, Paine's approach was one of patience, and it worked

Like with the Indian traffic, you don't want to get stuck with the Indian spinners. Perhaps the worst thing a batsman can do in India is not look to score off the spinners, and letting them bowl where they want to. It is conventional wisdom: you just don't let the spinners boss you. Once the runs stop coming, forward short leg, silly point, slip, leg slip, all sorts of close-in fieldsmen surround you. No matter how hard you concentrate, one of those deliveries will jump at you sooner or later, or turn a touch more than expected. And boom, with not many added to the scoreboard, the concentration to bat out sessions comes to nought.

Matthew Hayden swept viciously, Adam Gilchrist attacked ferociously, Michael Clarke used his quick footwork to upset the rhythm - most of the recent Australian batsmen who succeeded in India did so by bossing the spinners. Perhaps it is an acknowledgment of a much weaker Australian middle order, and a case of them having no illusions about it, that they have taken the patient route, one that calls for endless concentration and application, and involves disproportionate rewards in terms of runs.

If on day one it was Shane Watson defending for dear life, Tim Paine on day two didn't leave his crease, didn't play the premeditated sweep, didn't manufacture cuts or pulls, but defended long enough to capitalise on the loose balls and take Australia to a fighting total.

Paine is a smart wicketkeeper-batsman from Tasmania, Australia's cricketing backwater. He was marked as one for the future at 16, when given a Cricket Australia juniors contract worth A$10,000. Nine years later, he is playing in only his third Test, and will - in all likelihood - have to relinquish the gloves when Brad Haddin is fit. He is well aware of the wicketkeeping curse in Australia: Gilchrist had to wait for a long time for Ian Healy to leave, and Haddin had to wait for Gilchrist. During those years of wait, it would have struck Paine, a solid, slightly wristy but not powerful batsman, that introducing power-hitting to his game might fast-track his rise to the Australian national side.

Paine has resisted that temptation. Sounds like just the guy to play the innings he did, 92 off 196 with the tail for company, an innings that involved resisting temptations of going for release shots, an innings that involved cramps, an innings that involved knowing he would have to keep wicket almost immediately after he got out.

It was also a clever ploy. Australia knew that with Ishant Sharma coming back from an injury-forced break, India would have to make do with three bowlers for more than half of the day. They knew they had made those three bowlers work hard on day one too - as Harbhajan Singh later said, he ended up bowling "50 overs on one leg". Those shoulders and fingers would tire at some point.

Until then, Paine kept alternating the strike playing from within the crease, occasionally playing the paddle to capitalise on a pretty square fine leg. Even though Watson perished to the inevitable ball that jumped, Paine waited for the bowlers to tire. He later spoke of the hard work involved.

"It was as hard as I have had to fight," Paine said. "I think when I was on 9 or 10, it felt like I had been there for ever. And it was hot, and I was finding it really hard to score. They were bowling really well."

Of course Mitchell Johnson's cameo helped. It brought Paine out of the shell a bit. "Mitch is, I suppose, a bit under-rated with the bat," Paine said. "When he is in good form, he is as good as a batsman, and he scores his runs very quickly, which today took the pressure off me."

With the tail in, Paine assumed more control. India couldn't take the new ball because Ishant still hadn't done his time. The old ball that went on for 146.5 overs stopped bouncing alarmingly. As expected, the loose balls started arriving. Paine could now play more strokes. And he did, the leg-glance and the late-cut standing out. Although it took him three attempts to get Paine's name right, Harbhajan didn't have to struggle to find praise for Paine's patience and shepherding of the tail.

The most impressive aspect of the innings, perhaps, was that he didn't worry too much about tiring himself before going to keep wicket. He was on the field practically for the whole day. Paine the keeper hardly suggested that Paine the batsman was starting to get cramps towards the end of his innings. About the keeping, Paine enthusiastically spoke of the need to stand closer to the stumps, preferring to drop the odd catch rather than letting it fall in front of him.

Solid as Paine was, Australia needed shock blows from Johnson - both with the bat and the ball - to edge slightly ahead by the end of day two. The team, though, let The Kid - a nickname Paine has earned because of his kiddish looks ("I haven't aged too much") - lead them off the field. He might have lost out on the feeling a Test century brings, but the pats on the back were well earned.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • moody89 on October 4, 2010, 3:15 GMT

    @Dilip Samuel:

    You truly don't follow test cricket if you think Clarke and Katich have not done much in the last two years. Go and have a look at the statistics for the last two years... I think you'll find Katich is the second highest scorer in this time (if not the highest), only behind Clarke. Though Ponting has struggled, he still averages 40... and is still Australia's only option as captain. Michael Clarke is not ready.

  • khawaja on October 3, 2010, 18:16 GMT

    @neutral_fan dravid hasnt got the ability to play fast..........dats y in my opinion he still is a slow coach.......if a team needs 20 runs in 10 balls he hasnt got the ability to hit those big sixes...dats his negative

  • Ajay on October 3, 2010, 4:52 GMT

    @klobania watching the aus score of 428 itself wud have been enough for pak to be bowled out under 100.

  • Dummy4 on October 3, 2010, 4:34 GMT

    Please remove Katich, Ponting and Clarke off the Australian team if not now, alteast for the World Cup. I hardly know of any accomplishments of the trio in the last 2 years or so.

  • Andrew on October 3, 2010, 3:34 GMT

    @Ragavendran Vijay - I agree, I didnt highly rate Paine until he started doing well in ODIs. I think with Haddin, will need to be used more sparingly - maybe dropped from the limited over sides (even though I think he is still very good).

  • Dummy4 on October 3, 2010, 2:07 GMT

    It will be hard on Paine to be replaced as soon as Haddin gets fit. Maybe the selectors won't have to go too far when finally the day comes when they decide to drop North. My best wishes to Paine

  • Balakrishnan on October 3, 2010, 1:31 GMT

    @Ksalik: Slow coach Dravid? Then what the hell has express fast Watson and Paine done? Watto had 50 odd strikerate and Paine was on 9 when he played his 65th delivery. So nobody has the right to describe anyone as slow batsman in Test. What matters is the amount of runs they score. Everyone is not Sehwag.

  • Subba on October 3, 2010, 0:28 GMT

    The two dropped catches - by Sehwag in the first over and by Dhoni when he dropped Paine, will cost the Indian team a victory. This Aussie batting line up never looked equal to the task, to be honest.

  • david on October 2, 2010, 23:07 GMT

    well done paine you have saved astralia from defeat and slipping to 5th on the ICC world rankings in tests

  • Dre on October 2, 2010, 22:57 GMT

    @KSalik, use YOUR common sense and note that he plays his role per situation. He's been an anchor for his career,which did not always feature on batting friendly tracks like some of his newer team mates, thus the lower SR career-wise BUT in a situation where Ind has a platform and is in need to score quickly for a result ,since Aus scored so slowly and ate up time, he switched gears. They lost Sehwag and with the loss of another 1 he may have to switch back to his anchor role. If this explanation does not clarify your obvious lack of understanding player-roles in a team and the need for different gears, there is no hope for u.

  • No featured comments at the moment.