Captain Tim Paine will take “great confidence” from Australia retaining the Ashes on English soil, according to Justin Langer.
After they were denied by Ben Stokes’ heroics at Headingley in the previous match, Australia made sure they will keep hold of the famous urn with a 185-run victory over England in the fourth Test at Old Trafford, the result giving them a 2-1 lead with just one match to play.
Paine’s relief when the final wicket was confirmed following a review was clear, having come in for some criticism after his team’s failure to get over the line in the third Test when the hosts recorded a dramatic one-wicket triumph.
Australia coach Langer has praised the way the skipper has led the team during the tour, particularly as they had not won a series overseas since a 2-0 triumph over trans-Tasman rivals New Zealand in 2016.
“He’s very disciplined – I like that. He is very tough as well,” Langer said of the wicketkeeper-batsman. “This has meant a lot to him, from where he’s come from.
“The other important thing about Tim as captain is that we have not won overseas for some time. You’ve got to learn how to win, and that’s why this result is so important to us.
“I think the big lesson from the last Test is we all wanted it so much, sometimes we want something so much you just hold on a little bit tight. Hopefully we’ve learned some lessons over the last week.
“Had this [Old Trafford Test] been another draw, had we not quite got over the line, then that’s tough on the team. And for his captaincy, he will take great confidence from this – and so will the team.”
The tourists have relied heavily on Steve Smith to hold together a faltering batting line-up during the series, though Langer feels there are mitigating circumstances for some of the rest of the team, considering their lack of experience in the Test arena.
“Steve Smith has done a lot for Australian cricket in the last few years, really. So has David Warner,” he said.
“We must remember that Travis Head is new to Test cricket. Marnus Labuschagne is new to Test cricket. Marcus Harris is new to Test cricket. Cameron Bancroft is new to Test cricket. You can’t just give them that experience, they’ve got to earn that.
“We are very thankful to have Steve Smith batting like he is. We are lucky to have him, but Test cricket takes time. We have got to respect that.
“David hasn’t had a great series, but imagine how good the team will be when he starts having a great series. Hopefully, he will do that in the next Test.
“The other guys are learning as they go and this is all part of the experience. I said at the start of the series that the team that bats best will win the series, because both teams have got good bowling attacks. Ours is world class and we’re really lucky – we’re going to have to work on that batting.”
Smith has scored 671 runs in five innings against England, cementing his place at the top of the International Cricket Council Test batting rankings.