Tim Paine never doubted Australia’s ability to overcome their Headingley heartbreak after his side beat England at Old Trafford to retain the Ashes on Sunday.
After Ben Stokes’ heroics completed a miraculous comeback for England in the third Test in Leeds, Paine’s Australia claimed a 185-run victory in Manchester to take an unassailable 2-1 lead in the series, which concludes at The Oval.
Steve Smith’s sensational displays with the bat in both innings had put Australia in command heading into day five of the fourth Test, with England having been reduced to 18-2 after Pat Cummins dismissed Rory Burns and Joe Root in a disastrous evening session for the hosts on Saturday.
Despite respectable efforts from Jason Roy, Joe Denly and Jos Buttler, England’s batting order was whittled away through the day – Craig Overton and Jack Leach offering some late resistance before Marnus Labuschagne and Josh Hazlewood struck.
Paine’s captaincy was called into question following Australia’s failure to retain the Ashes at Headingley, but the wicketkeeper insisted he always trusted his side to hold their nerve this time around.
“A few nervous moments no doubt, coming off Headingley, we didn’t want to be in that position again,” Paine told a news conference.
“I thought we learned from that, held our nerve, bowled really well against a team that fought really hard like we knew they would.
“From where we came from last week, that was a loss that could break a lot of teams but I was confident we weren’t one of those teams.
“I could feel it and I thought we handled that week superbly, turned up here and did what we needed to like good cricket teams do.
“When you get a bunch of people together who have worked so hard for a common goal, to be able to carry it out over here with the pressure and the crowds and everything that’s been thrown at us and I couldn’t be more proud of the way the group have handled it.”
— Cricket Australia (@CricketAus) September 8, 2019
While Smith has undoubtedly been the star of the series so far, Labuschagne – originally introduced as a concussion substitute for Australia’s former captain – has settled in seamlessly after coming in at Lord’s.
Though much of his work has been with the bat and in the field, Labuschagne made the breakthrough when he ended Leach’s stubborn stand, and Paine lauded the 25-year-old’s impact.
“Marnus has been working really hard on his leg-spin bowling. He’s bowled a lot of overs for Glamorgan which has helped him, he’s improving all the time,” Paine said.
“He’s just one of those cricketers, if you tell a youngish part-time spinner to warm up at that stage in a Test match, I don’t think many of them would want to bowl. Marnus wanted to bowl and he wants to bat in the games when the best bowlers are on.
“He’s a really exciting cricketer for us and one we can build our team around in the future.”