Advertisement

Paine's ton of love for WACA return

Wicketkeeper eager for return to only venue that has yielded him a first-class century

It's not just the recollections of a personal and collective triumph of years past that has Tim Paine looking forward to taking part in the WACA Ground's Ashes swansong starting on Thursday.

While the nature of the WACA pitch has mellowed noticeably since its inaugural Test match (coincidentally against England) almost 50 years ago, Paine holds no doubt that it remains far and away the paciest, bounciest track among Australia's international venues.

And it's that surety of carry that has Australia's recently recalled keeper struggling to conceal his anticipation after routinely catching the ball around his ankles on the opening days of the past two Magellan Ashes Tests in Brisbane and Adelaide.

Given those Tests were the only two of his six-match career to date that Paine has played in Australia, he has no direct Baggy Green memories at the idiosyncratic venue that will be redeveloped as a boutique ground once Perth's new stadium comes online next month.

But he maintains one of his favourite cricket memories is the Sheffield Shield match of 2006 when the Tasmania team (of which he was a member as a specialist opening batter) snuck a six-run win at the WACA over a star-studded Western Australia outfit led by ex-Test opener Justin Langer.

Paine scores a Sheffield Shield century at the WACA in 2006 // Getty
Paine scores a Sheffield Shield century at the WACA in 2006 // Getty

In that game, Paine posted his career-high first-class score of 215 having batted for more than nine hours in the Tigers' first innings in what remains his only century in 93 first-class appearances stretching back 12 years.

But it's just one reason why he's keen for the start of this week's Test as Australia look to turn their current 2-0 series lead into a reclamation of the urn.

"It's a long time ago when I first came here, and it was quite fast and bouncy," Paine said of the WACA pitch today as Australia began their third Test preparations in sweltering Perth heat that topped 37C.

"The last few years, from a Tasmanian perspective, it's certainly different to what we're used to at home.

"It's still got more pace and bounce than most of the wickets around the country, so I think it will suit us really well this week.

"Our quicks don't need the wicket to be too fast to be a challenge (for opposition batters), so I think that's great news for our team."

Having been confronted by an unusually sluggish pitch at the Gabba for the series opener last month, and then an Adelaide surface that offered reduced pace and bounce with much of the second Test played in cool, cloudy conditions, arrival in Perth offers a marked change for both teams.

Test wrap: Gabba fortress holds firm for Aussies

Not only because Paine and his fellow behind-the-wicket catchers will need to acclimatise to fast bowlers getting the ball through above waist height rather than seeing it get to them at grass level.

But also because, despite its recent reputation as more of a haven for scoring than for speed merchants – witness the 2015 Test when Australia's David Warner and New Zealand's Ross Taylor both topped 250 – Paine believes batters can be caught unawares by the lively conditions.

Warner scores memorable WACA double ton

"I still think it's challenging to start (an innings) here in Perth," Paine said.

"There's still more bounce than the rest of the country, so the first 30 or 40 balls can still be really difficult to get yourself in but once you do, it can be a beautiful place to bat.

"Particularly with the outfield being so fast as well.

"It's certainly an enjoyable ground to be behind the wicket for a slip and wicketkeeper.

"It's one of those grounds that it doesn't seem to matter how far back you stand.

Match wrap: Australia win topsy-turvy second Test

"Everything just seems to carry above your waist, so you can stand wherever you like within two or three metres.

"It's just a matter of making sure you're not standing too far back and taking the slips and gully out of it, which some teams have done occasionally."

Having been effectively sidelined from international cricket for the best part of six years after a badly fractured finger stubbornly refused to heal, Paine understandably raised angst for himself and among others when he was struck on the damaged digit while batting in last week's second Test.

Paine's vital half-century keeps England at bay

He was immediately examined by Australia's Bupa Support Team doctor and repeatedly removed his batting glove to check the index finger on his right hand as he compiled 57 in Australia's first innings, and then showed no ill effects from that and subsequent mishaps when he took the keeping gloves.

Paine, who turned 33 last Friday, admitted soon after the blow that he initially feared the finger – which has half a dozen pins and a steel plate inserted into it after multiple surgical procedures – had sustained another potentially serious hit.

But he was relieved to discover the section of the finger that took the force of the impacts was not the part that he has injured in the past, and which had caused him to lose confidence in his batting for fear of having it broken again.

"I've been hit a few times over the last four or five years," Paine said today.

"I was a bit lucky, it kind of missed the bad part of my finger, which was nice."

2017-18 International Fixtures

Magellan Ashes Series

Australia Test squad: Steve Smith (c), David Warner (vc), Cameron Bancroft, Usman Khawaja, Peter Handscomb, Shaun Marsh, Mitchell Marsh, Tim Paine (wk), Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood, Jackson Bird.

England Test squad: Joe Root (c), James Anderson (vc), Moeen Ali, Jonny Bairstow, Jake Ball, Gary Ballance, Stuart Broad, Alastair Cook, Mason Crane, Tom Curran, Ben Foakes, Dawid Malan, Craig Overton, Ben Stokes, Mark Stoneman, James Vince, Chris Woakes.

First Test Australia won by 10 wickets. Scorecard

Second Test Australia won by 120 runs (Day-Night). Scorecard

Third Test WACA Ground, December 14-18. Tickets

Fourth Test MCG, December 26-30. Tickets

Fifth Test SCG, January 4-8 (Pink Test). Tickets

Gillette ODI Series v England

First ODI MCG, January 14. Tickets

Second ODI Gabba, January 19. Tickets

Third ODI SCG, January 21. Tickets

Fourth ODI Adelaide Oval, January 26. Tickets

Fifth ODI Perth Stadium, January 28. Tickets

Prime Minister's XI

PM's XI v England Manuka Oval, February 2. Tickets

Gillette T20 trans-Tasman Tri-Series

First T20I Australia v NZ, SCG, February 3. Tickets

Second T20I – Australia v England, Blundstone Arena, February 7. Tickets

Third T20I – Australia v England, MCG, February 10. Tickets

Fourth T20I – NZ v England, Wellington, February 14

Fifth T20I – NZ v Australia, Eden Park, February 16

Sixth T20I – NZ v England, Seddon Park, February 18

Final – TBC, Eden Park, February 21