December 19, 2018 / 3:16 AM / 6 months ago

Australia back to winning ways but tough tests lie ahead

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Australia’s victory over India in Perth may have been the catharsis the team and country needed after this year’s ball tampering scandal and run of losses, but much of the discussion after the game has been about bad behaviour.

FILE PHOTO: Australia's players celebrate after they defeated India on day five of the second test match between Australia and India at Perth Stadium in Perth, Australia, December 18, 2018. AAP/Richard Wainwright/via REUTERS

Tim Paine’s side dismissed India for 140 on Tuesday to wrap up a 146-run victory at Perth Stadium, their first test win since March — before the team’s universe imploded with a ball-tampering scandal in South Africa.

The scandal not only caused global vilification but resulted in the suspensions of captain Steve Smith and vice-captain David Warner until next year.

Coach Darren Lehmann also stood down, while Cricket Australia’s administration had a major overhaul with chairman David Peever and chief executive James Sutherland both departing.

A wide-ranging review of the organisation’s culture said it was perceived by stakeholders to be “arrogant” and “controlling”, while a “win without counting costs” mentality had seeped through into bad behaviour on the pitch.

While the ‘sledging’ that had become part of the Australian game was less aggressive than in the past, the match in Perth was punctuated with outbursts and confrontations from both sides, with umpire Chris Gaffney admonishing Paine and his Indian counterpart Virat Kohli.

Reports of a personal attack on Paine by Kohli also surfaced, but the Board of Control for Cricket India (BCCI) vehemently denied them after the test, labelling them “baseless”.

“These claims were based on hearsay and the BCCI would like to bring into notice that no such words were spoken on the field by the Indian captain,” the organisation said in a statement.

“The BCCI got a clarification from the team management about the incident and would like to classify the reports as baseless.”

Paine himself did not escape scrutiny, picked up on stump microphone questioning India batsman Murali Vijay as to whether he liked Kohli as a person.

The Australian victory, however, could provide a boost for the final two matches of the series, especially since vast tracts of empty seats at both Adelaide and Perth did little to resolve questions about whether the nation’s fans have quite forgiven the organisation or team for years of bad behaviour.

Paine’s side remain unchanged for the Boxing Day test in Melbourne and final game in Sydney from Jan. 3 when India will continue their quest for a first series victory in Australia.

And the Australians can expect a backlash from the top ranked test side in the world, according to former captain Ricky Ponting.

“There’s no doubt with one win a bit of belief comes but they can’t just rock up in Melbourne and expect India are going to play like they did here,” Ponting told Cricket Australia’s website.

“If you think about the MCG and SCG, they are (venues with) conditions that will suit the Indians more than Adelaide and Perth.

“The Aussie boys will have their work cut out.

“But as long they play the brand of cricket they know that they can play — and I think they showed that (with) some great aggression this week, I hope that continues for the next couple of weeks — if they can do that then I think they’re going to be hard to beat.”

Reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by Nick Mulvenney

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