November 24, 2019 / 9:56 AM / 21 days ago

Australia lock down top order after big win without Smith runs

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Captain Tim Paine thinks Australia might have found a top order for the foreseeable future after putting together an innings of 580 with minimal contribution from Steve Smith in their victory over Pakistan in the first test on Sunday.

FILE PHOTO: Cricket - Ashes 2019 - Fifth Test - England v Australia - Kia Oval, London, Britain - September 14, 2019 Australia's Tim Paine during the warm up before the match Action Images via Reuters/Andrew Boyers

Smith was a colossus when Australia retained the Ashes in England earlier this year, scoring 774 runs at an average of 110 to mask some poor performances from some of his fellow batsmen.

While former captain Smith was his usual reliable presence in the slips in Brisbane, the top-ranked test batsman in the world managed just four runs from nine deliveries.

“There’s no secret throughout the winter months we relied on Steve Smith a little bit too heavily,” Paine said.

“We’ve got a pretty reasonable batting line up and it was just a question of putting it together in the middle and to score 580 is exactly what you want from your test batters on a good wicket.”

There was indeed no shortfall to make up in Brisbane as the three batsmen ahead of Smith in the batting order all made big runs with the recalled Joe Burns contributing 97 in an opening partnership of 222 with David Warner.

Warner was one who struggled in England but the opener hit the ground running back on home soil with a determined 154 at the Gabba that augured well for the 33-year-old’s future in the game.

Number three Marnus Labuschagne’s maiden test century was another major highlight for the hosts, the ebullient 25-year-old showcasing his improved technique in a Man of the Match-winning innings of 185.

Australia have chopped and changed Warner’s opening partner frequently over the last few years, while finding someone to fill the number three position has also been a struggle.

Paine thought that the top order might well have done enough to ensure some stability in the side for the season ahead at least.

“Fantastic to see Davy back. We knew when he got back to Australia he’s a different proposition and he played superbly,” he said.

“Joe and David have a really good connection and I thought they set the tone.

“We were really pleased for a team mate like Marnus to finally arrive on the big stage, he looks like he’s getting better and better which is a good thing for Australian cricket.”

Reporting by Nick Mulvenney; Editing by Christopher Cushing

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