Ponting’s verdict on Paine’s decision to bowl
Test great labels Tim Paine’s call at the toss as ‘gutsy’ after Australia launched a day one fightback in the fifth Test
Sam Ferris at The Oval
13 September 2019, 08:54 AM AEST
Former Australia captain Ricky Ponting says the decision to bowl first was "gutsy" by skipper Tim Paine but only the result of the match will determine whether it was the right call.
Paine surprised Ponting, pundits and the England side when he elected to bowl first in the fifth and final Ashes Test at The Oval.
The move looked sound as the new ball constantly beat the outside edge of the England openers before Pat Cummins had Joe Denly caught at slip in the ninth over.
But from that point the Australian quicks were not at their consistent best and were not helped in the field when a chance was created, with three catches dropped either side of lunch as England skipper Joe Root and Rory Burns forged ahead.
But once Burns fell in the 31st over for 47, the visitors rediscovered their trademark discipline before allrounder Mitch Marsh produced an inspired spell of 3-17 in eight overs to reduce England to 7-205.
A late blitz of 64 not out from Jos Buttler tipped the opening day closer to parity, but Ponting says ultimately Paine's call at the toss will come down to who leaves The Oval as victors.
"I never try to make too much of it until the game is over because really that's where it will be the right decision or the wrong decision," Ponting told cricket.com.au.
"It's always dependant on the result of the game.
"I'm sure (Paine) is probably breathing a little bit easier than he was just after lunch when England were going well.
"Root and Burns had put on nearly an 80-run partnership and the wicket had flattened out. Gutsy call but they're the sort of things you have to do as captain and make those big calls."
As brave as a decision as it was to bowl first, it certainly caught Ponting by surprise.
"I was standing with a couple of the Aussie boys on the side of the wicket and when (match referee Javagal Srinath) looked over and said 'Tim, you've won the toss'," Ponting recalled.
"I then said to the boys 'we're batting' and then Painey went to the mic and said 'we'll have a bowl'.
"I thought 'that's interesting'."
Paine's decision would not have come under so much scrutiny had he and his side held onto their catches.
Recalled paceman Peter Siddle was the first culprit, dropping a regulation waist-high chance at fine-leg after Root top-edged a hook shot off Cummins upon reaching 24.
Two overs and three runs later, Root had his second life, when Paine threw out a right glove in the face of David Warner at first slip to drop the edge Cummins had extracted.
The third and final missed opportunity came from the last ball after lunch. Playing a loose drive to a full Siddle delivery, Root's edge was put down by a flying Steve Smith at second slip, who could not hold on to the difficult chance.
Ponting put the fielding lapse down to the Australians having "one of those days" and quashed any notion Paine's side were feeling flat after the win at Manchester, which ensured the urn would be returning to Australia.
"Siddle's was the easiest one dropped today," Ponting said.
"Paine's one is a 50-50 one for a fielder but it's probably a 70-30, 80-20 one for a keeper with the gloves on.
"And Smithy's, we probably mark him pretty hard as well. He catches them more often than not.
"I'm not going to say they weren’t there mentally or their attitude isn't right, it's just been one of those days.
"I spoke to Justin (Langer, Australia head coach) this morning and he said they trained better leading into this game than they have the whole series.
"And that was always going to be the way. Justin and Tim, they're not going to let last week get in the way of trying to win another Test match this week."
2019 Qantas Ashes Tour of England
Australia squad: Tim Paine (c), Cameron Bancroft, Pat Cummins, Marcus Harris, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Michael Neser, James Pattinson, Peter Siddle, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Matthew Wade, David Warner.
England squad: Joe Root (c), Jofra Archer, Jonny Bairstow, Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Jos Buttler, Sam Curran, Joe Denly, Jack Leach, Craig Overton, Jason Roy, Ben Stokes (vc), Chris Woakes.
First Test: Australia won by 251 runs at Edgbaston
Second Test: Match drawn at Lord's
Third Test: England won by one wicket at Headingley
Fourth Test: Australia won by 185 runs at Old Trafford
Fifth Test: September 12-16, The Oval