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Opinion

Tim Paine by the numbers

Tim Paine (Francois Nel/Getty Images)
Roar Guru
13th December, 2021
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2496 Reads

I think, with Alex Carey’s impressive debut Test, now is as good a time as any to look back at the career of Tim Paine.

Paine’s career can be fairly neatly split into three parts. His first coming as a young man in 2010 was a promising start before injury led to a lengthy stint in the wilderness.

Part Two of the Paine story was the unexpected call up for the 2017-18 Ashes series. And finally there was the even more remarkable ascension to the captaincy in 2018. Let’s look at each in turn.

Part one: The next big thing
Tim Paine made his debut in England in 2010, but not against the old enemy. Instead Paine’s first Test (debuting alongside Steven Smith) was against Pakistan at Lord’s.

Paine walked away from his first series with 12 dismissals in two Tests, plus the third highest series runs and batting average, behind only Michael Clarke and Simon Katich.

After a solid first Test, where he scored a second innings 47, in the second Test Paine’s modest 17 as last man out was the top score in a terrible 88 all out, before another solid 33 in the second innings helped Australia set a 180 target for Pakistan, who chased it down with three wickets remaining.

Most hearteningly, Paine averaged over 65 balls per dismissal in foreign conditions where the team never scored over 350. A pattern for Paine’s Test batting was also established, looking solid, getting starts, forming partnerships, but never hitting that defining score.

(Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

Australia’s next assignment was a tough 2 Test series away in India. It was here that Paine really established his credentials as Australia’s next long-term keeper. In a heartbreaking one-wicket loss in the first Test, Paine contributed 92 runs out of a first innings total of 428.

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In the second Test, Paine added another half century in a first innings 478.

Again Paine is third on the runs and averages for the series, this time behind Ricky Ponting and Shane Watson. Importantly, Paine’s stick-ability at the crease (facing more balls than all but Watson) allows significant partnerships to develop around him.

419 runs were scored across the two Tests while Paine was at the crease.

So after four Tests, Paine’s batting average stood at a tick under 36, with two half centuries. He had also faced just over 83 balls per innings and effect 17 dismissals in four Tests. This was a solid start, especially given the contrasting nature of away tours to England and India as his first assignments.

As is well known, Paine then started his first home season with an exhibition T20 match, where he had his fingers mangled by Dirk Nannes and he spent his next seven years in various stages of operations, recovery, a slogging it out in the Sheffield Shield.

Paine’s batting never really kicked on at this level and Australia moved on to Brad Haddin, Matthew Wade, Peter Nevil and Mathew Wade before coming to the conclusion in November 2017 that a change was needed, just before a critical home Ashes series.

Part two: The second coming
By late 2017 Tim Paine’s career at the top level was winding down. He had oddly played a handful of T20s for Australia, a format he was never suited to, and was no longer even the first choice keeper for his state.

As he negotiated to retired and work for Kookaburra, Paine was selected for an Australia A match, mainly, it appeared, to babysit a team of promising rookies. Runs were scored, catches were taken and suddenly out of nowhere Tim Paine was a controversial choice as keeper for a home Ashes.

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After no significant international cricket for many years, Paine entered the Ashes cauldron and averaged more than Usman Khawaja, Cam Bancroft and Pete Handscomb. A series return of 192 runs at an average 48 was extremely solid, again without producing a big innings.

Instead, Paine was very consistent, with scores of 57, 49 not out and 38 not out in his five innings. Paine again stuck around, never failing to reach double figures and averaging just under 85 balls per innings. He also completed 26 dismissals in a five-Test series.

Paine’s career average at this point was 39.9, very adequate for a keeper.

Paine then headed to South Africa with a tired team, a frazzled captain and a sinking culture, and we all know how that ended. However, Paine himself continued his reliable, solid form. In the second Test Paine scored only 36 and 28, however in both cases he was still there at the end of the Australian innings.

Another 34 not out and 9 not out in the third Test, showed Paine holding things together as best he could while those around him capitulated.

During this second phase of Paine’s stop start career, he scored 338 runs at an average of 48.3. That average was bolstered by 5 not out scores in 12 innings, showing both Paine’s consistency and solidity, and coupled with a strike rate of just over 50, Paine was everything that the selectors must have banked on.

And with 56 dismissals in just 12 Tests, he was a safe pair of hands.

At this point Paine could have expected another few years as the solid wicket keeper and a senior pro in the team, maybe even following the Australian tradition of a keeper vice-captain.

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Instead after just 12 Tests, Paine was the captain of his country during the biggest crisis wince World Series Cricket.

The accidental leader
It said much for Paine’s leadership qualities that in the first Test after the Sandpaper incident, he top scored with 62 runs (his highest Test score since 2010) and was once again last man out, after coming in at 5 for 96.

Paine and the bowlers added 125 runs to more than double the total. Paine’s second innings 7 was also his first single digit score since all the way back to his second ever test.

In South Africa Paine was second for the series in runs scored and topped the averages. He also made 16 dismissals in the four Tests.

At this point Paine had not scored less than 24 in the first innings in each of his last 7 Tests, but as usual the big scores had evade him. He was typically last man out or not out, indicating a failure of the upper order to stick with him and build partnerships.

Instead Paine relied on the tail, particularly Pat Cummins.

Ben Stokes and Tim Paine.

(Photo by Alex Davidson/Getty Images)

Paine’s captaincy career began in earnest in another away series, this time in the UAE against Pakistan. In the first Test Paine joined Usman Khawaja in snatching a brave and unlikely draw, the captain remaining 61 not out at the close, having resisted the home side for 191 deliveries. This was after keeping for over 220 overs in the heat.

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This was truly a masterclass of resistance.

The peak
Let’s stop there for a moment. In only 14 Tests, Paine had now played nine away Tests across four different countries: in England, India, South Africa and the Emirates. His only home series was the pressure of an Ashes straight after that 7 year break.

Paine’s career batting average was sitting at 42.33 and he had scored single digits in only 4 of 24 trips to the crease. At this peak of his career, Paine’s average would have been good enough to be fifth all time in the world for wicket keepers, behind only AB de Villiers, Gary Flower, Adam Gilchrist and Less Ames.

Paine also had 63 dismissals in 14 Tests at around 4.5 per match. As at the current date, Paine’s career dismissals of 2.308 per test is only bettered in history by South Africans AB de Villiers and Quentin de Kock.

At this point, forget the captaincy, Tim Paine’s selection at keeper is as secure as any wicketkeeper in history.

The Ashes
Back home in Australia, Paine’s next assignment, in the first home series post Sandpapergate, was facing India without Smith and Warner.

For the first time in nine Tests, Paine failed in the first innings in Adelaide. He made amends by scoring 41 in the second innings as Australia chase 323. Given we fell only 35 runs short, just a few more would have made for a famous victory.

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Paine’s next four innings across Perth and Melbourne are typical of his career. 38, 37, 22 (top score) and 26.

Consistent, solid, partnership forming, but with a weakened batting line up, he was unable to dictate the course of a match.

For the first time Paine was not among the top four batting averages in a series, scoring the fifth most runs and effecting 16 dismissals in four matches.

What followed was a low key series against the visiting Sri Lankans with Paine not being required as Australia steam roll a very weak opposition.

The Australians then headed to the defining series of Paine’s captaincy career. With Smith and Warner back to bolster the line up, the Australian’s headed to England, where they had not won a series or even retained the Ashes since 2001.

This was the series of Smith and Marnus Labuschagne, nearly the series of Ben Stokes, but ultimately the series where Australia kept the urn on foreign soil.

This is where Paine’s captaincy both succeeded and failed. The captain gets to take the credit when his team achieves a feat that was beyond Ponting, and Clarke, but his tactics during Stokes’ Leeds heist and his subsequent failure to keep his team focussed in the final Test somewhat tarnished the magnitude of this achievement and left many lamenting ‘what might have been’.

Tim Paine

Tim Paine (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

Paine’s personal batting contribution was to average below 25 for the first time in a series, while making 20 dismissals in five Tests. However, Paine did make an important contribution in the fourth test in Manchester that sealed the Ashes, scoring a first innings 58, taking Australia from 224 to 369.

More importantly, the team was able to bounce back quickly from the disappointment of Leeds, not allowing the series to escape their grasp and credit must go to the captain for that.

Back home and Paine has a good summer without having to contribute too much as his team is now well capable of accounting for Pakistan and New Zealand at home. He still scored valuable first innings runs in the New Zealand series.

Across the three Tests he made 39 (last out), 79 and 35. In each case this helped establish the home side’s dominant position, taking the team from 300 to over 400.

At this point in his career, Paine’s frankly amazing consistency continued. He failed to reach double figures in only three Tests out of 31.

The Indian summer
There was only one series left for Tim Paine and it’s one we are unlikely to forget. Australia, despite taking a 1-nil lead, conceded a second home series in succession to India, this time allowing Fortress Gabba to be toppled.

However, Paine finished with a batting flourish in a deeply disappointing series for Australia. He averaged over 40, behind only Smith and Labuschagne.

Australia’s first Test victory was in great part, due to his 79 not out in the first innings, coming in at 5 for 79 and leaving with the score at 191. In Brisbane Paine scored a first innings half century to take Australia from a middling 5-213 to 369

Summary
In my subjective opinion the takeaways from Tim Paine’s career performances are these:
– Very high consistency. Only three times in his career did Paine fail to reach double figures in a Test. Many times Paine chipped in with some important runs.
– Paine played six opponents and averaged over 23 against all and over 35 against four of them.
– He played in five countries and averaged over 20 in all, including his ‘what might have been’ 45 plus average in India in 2010.
– A batting average of 35 at home and 32 away points to a solid away player across varying conditions.
– 2019 was his horrible year, averaging 24 across 12 Tests, but he averaged over 35 in every other year.
– The captaincy had a tremendous effect (maybe combined with age). Paine average 48 across 2017 and 2018 under Steve Smith, but only 28 as captain.
– Paine was pretty good in adversity. There were some important runs in that list above and he averaged over 30 after losing the toss and being sent in. Like most he was better in the first innings, but still averaged in the high 20’s in the 3rd and 4th.
– Notably, Paine averaged 36 in day/night Tests, which may have come in handy this year.
– Paine led from the front in wins, averaging over 41.

All in all, as a number 7 batsman, I give Tim Paine a pass. Coupled with historically high dismissal rates as keeper, he can be proud of his body of work.

As a captain, Paine has dealt with more adversity than any since Border and has held the line.

He has not been the most tactical or even cool headed captain, but he also has been let down by his bowlers on more than one occasion. Paine retained the Ashes in England for the first time since 2001, a feat that Ponting and Clarke before him could not do.

While losing Smith and Warner, we were beaten but not disgraced by India, and a full-strength Australian side subsequently put the now world champion Kiwis to the sword.

The most recent series against India was Paine’s great blemish and I blame the collective failure to recognise a cooked bowling attack as much as Paine’s own captaincy.

Paine’s runs in the first and fourth Tests were critical and a bowling performance in Brisbane of even half the energy of Adelaide would have seen Tim Paine leaving his post as a series winner.

In the end, Paine showed more resilience in the face of personal setbacks and team crises than most could handle and hopefully has delivered Pat Cummins a culture and squad to push Australia forward.

Thanks Tim.

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