Australia captain Paine backs Smith to find form

© Reuters. Third Twenty20 International – Australia v India

By Ian Ransom

MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Australia captain Tim Paine has backed Steve Smith to find form and lead the team’s batsmen out of their funk after the former skipper’s twin failures in Melbourne hastened the hosts’ slide to a resounding eight-wicket defeat on Tuesday.

Smith, the world’s top-ranked test batsman, was out for his first duck in four years in the first innings and was bowled around his legs by paceman Jasprit Bumrah for eight in the second as India levelled the series 1-1 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

Having scored one and one not out in Australia’s dominant win in the Adelaide opener, Smith is mired in the worst run of test scores of his career.

India have attacked Smith’s stumps and set heavy leg-side fields, and Paine paid their bowlers credit for not allowing the master batsman to get settled at the crease.

But he added it was not the first time Smith had dealt with such tactics and expected the 31-year-old to work his way through them.

“From what I’ve seen watching, say, Marnus (Labuschagne) and Steve Smith in their test career, it’s not the first time teams have targeted their stumps,” Paine told reporters.

“That happens every single test match. Except these (India) guys are executing it better.

“Someone like Steve just hasn’t been able to get in yet. Once he does, he’ll find a way as he always has. The rest of us will follow suit. We need to improve, no doubt about that.”

Bowled out for 195 in the first innings, Australia made 200 in the second, the first time in the series, but only through the defiance of their tail-end batting.

Paine did not think there was any need to change the batting order but managed only lukewarm backing for opener Joe Burns while welcoming the prospect of stalwart opener David Warner returning for the third test.

Righthander Burns was out for a duck and made four at the MCG and looked horribly out of sorts in both innings.

“I just think we need to bat better, it doesn’t matter who’s out there — we need to be scoring runs,” said Paine.

“That’s our job as a top seven of the Australian cricket team. Obviously they’ll (selectors) look at other people.

“I think we have the best people here at the moment. We just haven’t been good enough to get the job done.”

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