On day one of his Australian Test recall, seven years after his previous appearance, Tim Paine dropped a catch up to the stumps. It came from a James Vince outside edge procured by Nathan Lyon generating bounce from around the wicket, and caused plenty of annoyance for Paine. He had, after all, been chosen as arguably the most highly-rated gloveman in the country.
Six Tests later, Paine vindicated that rating with the catch that finally sunk a doughty South African rearguard, standing up to the stumps for Mitchell Marsh's fast mediums and clasping the chance offered by Aiden Markram after he'd made superb century. Watching from back home, one of Paine's fellow custodians of the gloves for Australia, Adam Gilchrist, described the catch as "sublime". With the younger and supremely talented Alex Carey waiting in the wings, Paine has made his glovework count.
"I've tried it a few times on flattish wickets, there was a bit of reverse swing so if we're honest, we were going to try and trap him on the crease and get him lbw but as you saw, it bounced a bit more and got an outside edge so very grateful it stuck," Paine said. "I think it's always a chance when you're up to the stumps. It certainly mixes the batsmen's feet up a little bit and makes them play in a certain, different way.
"We saw South Africa do it a lot with Vernon (Philander), guys who can hit a really nice length, get the keeper up to the stumps, it's just a different scenario for a batter to deal with. It worked well. I wouldn't say they were starting to get away from us, they were playing very well, but we knew we had a new ball around the corner and we know what our attack can do when we start to get it at the tail.
"So we knew we were one wicket away and we were right in the contest, but from a wicketkeeping point of view, that's what I try and do. I try and change the game, so just needed to come up to the stumps to try and do something different and it was great that it stuck in there."
The chance to dismiss Markram arrived through a determined spell from Marsh, who has been a major contributor for Australia with both bat and ball. Paine said that while he was not entirely sure about speed gun readings that had Marsh touching 139kph during his spell, he had little doubt about the allrounder's value to the team on days like this, when the frontline attack of Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins and Nathan Lyon was briefly blunted by Markram and a rejuvenated Quinton de Kock.
"I'm not sure about that speed gun. He's actually claiming it, don't worry," Paine quipped. "But Mitch has obviously had some shoulder issues and he's coming back and gaining some confidence, playing beautifully with the bat. I think in Australia and sort of across the world we're starting to see what Mitch is capable of. Back home in Australia we've seen him bowl faster than that.
"I certainly wouldn't be keeping up to the stumps to him with the pace I've seen him bowl in Australia. He's developing into a fantastic all-round package at international level. It's really exciting for him and it's great for our side to have someone coming of age like he is."
The Paine and Marsh combination opened up an end for Starc, who threatened to bring the match to the swiftest of finishes with three wickets in a single over before poor light forced the use of spin for the final 40 minutes. Starc is still on a hat-trick, and Paine said the Australians would try to give him the chance to take the final wicket to end the match when the final day resumes.
"He gets a chance tomorrow now. We'll come in early tomorrow, do another warm-up and see what happens," Paine said. "I think they were going to go off but I think most nights teams have been offered spin so I know one of the nights I was out there the South Africans were offered spin on day one, they decided not to take it. Obviously the state of the game tonight we thought we'd have a crack at getting that last wicket.
"It was just getting darker and darker so even the spinners were becoming a little bit harder to see. It's got to be fair for the batters. It was great they gave us the chance with the spin but the umpires were constantly checking the light and it was just getting to the stage where it was just too dark."
Looking overall at the match, Paine said an even contribution across the team had been a major positive, even if it will not go down as one of Australia's better batting performances. "I think we've actually played a decent team game of cricket except for Starcy's couple of bursts with the ball," he said. "We haven't had an outstanding batting performance. Mitch Marsh was good in the first innings.
"I think just our ability to keep sticking at it, keep fighting ... it's a world-class team we're playing against and we know that's what we're going to have to do. Hopefully in the next game we get hundreds and we get guys that can support Starcy a bit more with the ball. I think whilst we're in a good position to win this game tomorrow, if it goes ahead, we can play a lot better."