How the Ashes highlighted Australia's ball-tampering shame

Sam Goodwin
Sports Editor

Tim Paine’s Ashes performance was officially the worst from an Australian wicketkeeper in 26 years.

The Australian captain managed just 180 runs with the bat across the five-Test series - an average of 20.

It makes for the lowest batting average from an Australian wicketkeeper in a five-Test series since 1993.

But the ramifications from Australia’s ball-tampering scandal mean Paine is Australia’s captain and wicketkeeper out of sheer necessity.

Steve Smith is in the midst of a one-year ban from all leadership positions, while previous vice-captain David Warner is banned from such positions for life.

WHAT CONTROVERSY: Steve Smith photo smashes Jack Leach scandal

Paine became the captain almost by default because of a lack of leadership and experience in the side when Smith and Warner were suspended.

Paine’s performances with the bat (and to a lesser extent the gloves) haven’t exactly been enough to see him retain his spot, but what other options do the Aussies have?

Tim Paine with teammates Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith and David Warner. (Photo by Visionhaus/Getty Images)

You can’t pick a side without considering who will be the captain.

If the sandpaper scandal never happened, Smith would still be captain and Alex Carey would most likely be the wicketkeeper.

But Paine will stay because of a lack of any real captaincy replacements.

Travis Head - vice-captain for the first four Ashes Tests - was dropped to make way for Mitchell Marsh in the fifth Test.

Marsh himself was vice-captain at one stage before he was dropped.

Usman Khawaja captains Queensland in Sheffield Shield cricket, but hasn’t been able to cement his spot in Australia’s XI.

Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood and Nathan Lyon would all seemingly be viable candidates, but selectors appear unwilling to hand the captaincy to a bowler.

Tim Paine and the Aussies celebrate with the urn. (Image: GLYN KIRK/AFP/Getty Images)

Paine’s captaincy called into question

Paine’s leadership throughout one of the darkest periods in Australian cricket history has been undeniably good.

But has his captaincy been that great?

His struggles with the DRS reached historic lows, successfully reviewing just one out of 13 attempts throughout the Ashes.

His decision to bowl first in the fifth Test at The Oval - one of England’s best batting decks - was also widely criticised.

Paine's team return to Australia after successfully retaining the Ashes, something their predecessors on tours of England in 2005, 2009, 2013 and 2015 failed to achieve.

But a loss in the series finale means the drought drags on; Australia haven't recorded an Ashes series win in England since Steve Waugh's side triumphed 4-1 in 2001.

Coach Justin Langer, who flashed an ice-cold look in the rooms as England completed a 135-run victory, expressed mixed emotions.

"A bit hollow really,” Langer said of the missed opportunity.

Paine conceded he simply wasn’t good enough with reviews and made no excuses for his continual DRS failures.

"I'm going to do some umpiring school when I get home," he said.

"I'll enrol in a level three umpires course and see if I can get them right.

"I'm getting it wrong, I don't know what else to say. We're having a mare. We've got it wrong.

"It happens, it's fast, it's a tough job. As I've said throughout the whole Test series I've got a new respect for umpiring, particularly in Test cricket.

"For years players whinged about umpiring and now we've got it in our hands a little bit and we're finding that it's hard."

There’s no questioning the outstanding job Paine has done, but the uncomfortable reality is he probably shouldn’t be there.

with AAP