Australia keen to maintain 'control' as Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood bide time

Matthew Wade took the gloves, with Tim Paine playing as a batsman Getty Images

Australians 266 for 5 dec (Head 109*, Khawaja 57) and 124 for 2 (Harris 67) drew with Worcestershire 201 for 9 dec (Milton 74, Morris 53*, Hazlewood 3-34)

Australia's captain Tim Paine and his touring party ventured from Worcester to London on Friday with a fierce resolve to play to the strengths that they showcased at Edgbaston, even if it means again spelling Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood at Lord's for the second Ashes Test.

Starc and Hazlewood both had their moments in a match curtailed on the final day by rain that fell overnight and then returned in early afternoon, signalling an early end to the fixture but also a chance for the Australian tour bus to beat the heaviest of the traffic on the trip back to the British capital.

Paine, who did not keep wicket in the game, suggested that his men were intent on maintaining a sense of control on proceedings that did not give up the search for wickets but instead kept it in balance with restricting the flow of runs on fast-scoring English grounds - something Starc and Hazlewood did with mixed results against Worcestershire.

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"We're always bowling to a plan to get batsmen out, but I think sometimes perhaps we've set slightly more defensive fields than we have when we've come here in the past," Paine said. "There's a balance between doing that. We don't want to have everyone out on the fence and have no fielders in positions where we think we can get batsmen out.

"So it's about trying to find a balance between attacking their weakness and also controlling their strengths and also where they can score quickly. In England, with the grounds being a bit smaller and the outfields being a bit faster the game can get away from you a little bit quicker.

"I thought that was one of the pleasing things that we did in the first innings at Edgbaston, is that we controlled the scoreboard and if you can do that, when you do get a bit of run-on or a little change in weather when the ball starts to swing you can get well ahead of the game. So there's certainly an element of control but we still want to be making sure that we're working to get their batsmen out all the time as well."

To that end, Paine stressed that Worcester was less a selection trial for Starc, Hazlewood, Michael Neser and company than a chance for them to keep engines revving at a pitch that would see them ready if needed. That need will depend very much on the character of the Lord's pitch, which will be the source of plenty of mystery to England as much as Australia after results so far this year.

"Mitch has obviously come in off a World Cup so it was good for him to get another red-ball bowl," Paine said. "As Josh said, it seems every time he's bowled [he's improved]. He has had a pretty long layoff with his back injury, so every time he's bowled on this tour he has got better. "I thought his first spell here - both their first spells here were really, really good. So we know the high-quality bowlers they are, Michael Neser the same - we know if he gets the right conditions in England with the Dukes ball he can be a real handful.

"So as we've said all tour, it'll be conditions based. They'll play a part in the Ashes if and when the conditions suit. We weren't looking at Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc thinking 'gee I hope they bowl well'. We know how good they are. We know what they can do."

Having spent most of the tour match observing things from mid-off or the team viewing area - he did not bat - Paine mounted a cogent counter-argument to the long held view that wicketkeeper captains had it tougher than their batting contemporaries.

"I didn't really enjoy it, it was a bit boring," Paine said. "It's different because you don't see what the ball is doing. People have said in the past that being a wicketkeeper and a captain might be a disadvantage. Now that I've done it a bit more, I see it as more of an advantage. I can see ball movement, I can see or feel when a bowler's getting tired from the way he's hitting my gloves.

"And I can see exactly where a batsman is moving to, or what mark he's batting on and stuff like that. So I found it a little bit harder in this game, when you can't see exactly what's happening. You're relying on other people's information a lot, I found. It was nice to have a bit of a spell from wicketkeeping but I'm looking forward to getting back behind them."

In London, the Australians will reconnect with their most indispensable batsman, Steve Smith, refreshed by a few days away and doubtless eager for a few thousand more throwdowns to regroove his game for Lord's. Paine received talk of fresh English plans for Smith with precious little discomfort.

"Steve Smith averages over 60 in Test cricket, so I think the beauty of Steve is you can come up with a plan but he's good enough to adapt really quickly," Paine said. "I've seen him do it between balls, I've seen him do it when guys have targeted him from one end a certain way and a completely different way from the other end. I think that's what makes him the best player in the world, his ability to adapt to any plan that is thrown at him. I think he processes it quicker than other players and adapts on the spot."

Resuming at 92 for 1, the tourists played out only another 13 overs before the rain returned. Marcus Harris got as far as 67 before his exit, but Cameron Bancroft is expected to retain his opening spot alongside David Warner for Lord's.

Australians 3rd innings Partnerships

1st31MS HarrisCT Bancroft
2nd72MR MarshMS Harris
3rd21MR MarshM Labuschagne