He admitted he kept one eye on the workloads of his quicks after Josh Hazlewood went down in his second over of the match but was confident they would get through the hard yards. They did it with such effect that, across two innings, Australia only bowled 120.5 overs in the match and earned an extra day off to recover.
Hazlewood had already made one breakthrough before he pulled up after eight deliveries on the second day and Paine conceded he glanced around the field at the options he had up his sleeve. In the end, he dipped into Matthew Wade, Marnus Labuschagne and Travis Head at different times but the majority of the work was done by his remaining big three who are now the three leading wicket-takers for the year.
“I thought, gee, I wish we had an allrounder,” Paine said of the moment Hazlewood went down. “I was very surprised Josh got injured because he hasn’t for a little while. But I know that Starcy and Pat and Josh are great athletes. So I knew we could handle the load particularly when we have Nathan in our side who can bowl lots of overs. I think Marnus coming in and playing in our side also gives us another option which is lucky.
“The conversation was around making sure we had those two big boys fresh come five down in the second innings. And I thought we managed it really well so that when we were bowling to their tail they still had a bit of energy and speed up their sleeves.”
“There were times where we just bowled a bit of spin or let Wadey go for a few overs and used Heady for a bit today to break up time so we could make sure that Mitch and Pat were getting the rest. We certainly weren’t going to bowl them into the ground. We thought we could still get the job done with those conditions in our favour with Nathan in our side and not have to flog them to death. Because they are obviously hugely valuable for the rest of this series and in all three formats for Australia we wanted to make sure we managed them correctly and didn’t ruin their series.”
“Granted we have some players back which is helping, but there’s been improvement in the guys who were given a chance 18 months ago.”
Australia are forging a very impressive home season following their two innings victories against Pakistan with this 296-run victory against No. 2-ranked team in the world. Paine picked out the second-innings collapse, where they lost 7 for 58, as the one period where they slipped from their high expectations but, as had before the match, referenced the strides made since he took on the captaincy.
“Certainly over the last 18 months there’s been drastic improvement in this team. Granted we have some players back which is helping, but there’s been improvement in the guys who were given a chance 18 months ago and the experienced players have come back and put some icing on the top. We are moving in the right direction.”
This was also a victory with a limited contribution from Steven Smith who made 43 and 16, falling to Neil Wagner’s short ball on both occasions. With Head scoring a half-century in the first innings Smith is now the only one of the top six not to pass fifty in Test so far this season.
“It’s been great, we touched on that at the end of the Ashes that we needed other guys to stand up and can’t be reliant on Steve,” Paine said. “We are really pleased with Marnus, he’s been unbelievably good, Davey [Warner] and Joe [Burns] have been scoring runs and that’s what we’ll all have to be doing if we are to one of the better teams in the world which we want to be. Guys have got to stand up, we can’t rely on too few. We are really happy with the way our batting has developed.”
Hazlewood’s replacement will be named later this week with Justin Langer suggesting Peter Siddle was in line for a recall with the potential for further tweaks ahead of the Sydney Test where the pitch could favour spin.