Marsh Sheffield Shield 2019-20
Paine celebrates drought-breaking first-class ton
Tasmanian gloveman and Australian captain ends near 13-year drought to bring up second first-class century in vital Sheffield Sheffield knock
12 October 2019, 04:15 PM AEST
Thirteen years after his first, Tim Paine has scored his second first-class century.
John Howard was still the Prime Minister, the iPhone had yet to be invented and Justin Langer was still opening the batting for Western Australia when a 21-year-old Paine scored his maiden ton, a monster 215 off 409 balls, at the WACA Ground in October 2006.
At the same Perth venue 4,738 days later, the now-Test skipper broke the drought with a crucial counter-punching hundred for Tasmania in their first match of the Marsh Sheffield Shield season.
Fittingly Langer, now Australia's head coach and a close confidante of Paine's, has been in the stands for much of the match.
Paine's knock ended on 121 when he mis-hit a pull shot off WA quick Jhye Richardson to be caught at mid-wicket, by which time he'd put his side into a 55-run lead.
The name Lawrence Neil-Smith would likely not ring a bell for even the most devout Australian cricket fans but the debutant 20-year-old proved an unlikely ally for Paine.
The tall paceman, batting at No.10, had soaked up 97 balls by the time Paine reached triple figures as the pair helped the visitors eke out a narrow lead over Western Australia.
There was a nervous wait for Paine on 99 as he flicked an Ashton Agar delivery and ran two – only for umpire Paul Wilson to signal leg-byes.
The following over he finally got there when Agar dropped short, cutting him to the point boundary and sharing a brief embrace with Neil-Smith before acknowledging the small crowd and teammates with a subdued bat raise.
Coming to the crease on day two with Tasmania 5-176 still trailing the hosts by 161, Paine fought through to be unbeaten at stumps before the loss of Caleb Jewell for 52 exposed the tail.
The swift exits of Sam Rainbird and Jackson Bird seemed destined to leave Paine stranded, but the doggedness of Neil-Smith ensured the Test skipper was given a platform to reach his milestone and for the Tigers to achieve parity.
The wicketkeeper cut particularly well throughout his innings and weathered some testing spells from Richardson, who bowled with good pace on the traditionally bouncy surface.
As the first Australian captain to retain the Ashes for the first time in nearly 20 years, Paine was a heavily-scrutinised figure – by the British press in particular – ahead of Australia's Test tour earlier this year.
But while his batting came under the microscope at times – he made 180 runs at 20 for the series – Paine's record at Test level (1,164 runs at 31.45) puts him on level pegging with the best Australian wicketkeepers not named Adam Gilchrist.
Only Gilchrist, who permanently elevated the standards required from glovemen by hitting 17 tons and averaging 47.60 over a 96-Test career, and his successor Brad Haddin (four hundreds, average of 32.98) have better career batting records than Paine among Australian keepers.
Having made the long-awaited first-class ton, Paine will now be itching to replicate the success when the Test summer gets underway next month against Pakistan at the Gabba.