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Victorious Aussies not losing focus on fifth Test

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11th September, 2019
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Tim Paine has a knack of delivering lightning-fast retorts, regardless of whether it is behind stump microphones or journalists’ microphones, and on the eve of the fifth Ashes Test there was another.

“Not yet. Not yet,” Paine quipped.

It wasn’t quite a list of the 15 more intimidating venues than Edgbaston but the captain, responding to a question that referenced Australia having achieved their main objective of the tour by retaining the urn, was quick to interject.

The tourists, leading 2-1 after ending England’s resistance in the final session of the fourth Test, are seeking their first Ashes series win in England since 2001.

Australia have bettered England for much of the series, thanks largely to Steve Smith and a star-studded attack headlined by Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood, and are bookmakers’ favourites to win the contest starting Thursday at the Oval.

Complacency and fatigue are arguably among Australia’s most slippery banana skins in London, along with workload concerns that have selectors stewing over whether to rest Cummins and/or Hazlewood as Peter Siddle eyes a recall.

Paine has confirmed Mitch Marsh will return in place of Travis Head but selectors will wait until the toss before finalising an XI.

Paine is adamant Australia will be sharp as Joe Root’s side hunt a consolatory win in their final game under the mentorship of Australian coach Trevor Bayliss.

“It’s not at all (a lesser match) and we don’t have to talk about it because we came here to win the Ashes. We didn’t come here to retain them,” Paine said.

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“One of the reasons we’re waiting on making a call on our team … and what’s right for the players is because we see this as one of the biggest Test matches we’re going to play.”

Paine cited the Test championship, the final of which is set to be staged at Lord’s in 2021, as another important factor for his team.

“There’s no such thing as dead rubbers and certainly against England, there’s never a dead rubber. We’re up for it. We’re ready,” he said.

“We want to be here at the end of this Test as a team that’s won … rather than let it peter out to a draw or a loss. It won’t be the same for us.”

Paine, like coach Justin Langer, backed David Warner to end a series of struggles against Stuart Broad on a high note.

Warner has tallied 79 runs at 9.87 this series.

“There’s always pressure on David Warner, everywhere you go he’s a cricketer that opposition teams want to get out and want to get on top of,” Paine said.

“He’s a really important part of our team. He hasn’t had the series he would’ve liked but two hits ago he got 60-odd in the toughest conditions at Headingley.

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“I’ve got full confidence in David that when he does click into gear he’s going to win us a Test match and I think it’s going to be this one.”