Australia captain Tim Paine says he is encouraged by his emerging team’s ruthless streak after the hosts crushed New Zealand on the fourth day to secure a commanding 296-run victory in the first Test on Sunday.
Reminiscent of hard-bitten sides during their heyday, Australia dominated the day-night contest throughout as New Zealand wilted with tame scores of 166 and 171.
A rejuvenated Australia won their third straight Test of the home season since retaining the Ashes in England and stretched their unbeaten run in day-night matches to seven.
Having helped rebuild Australia since last year’s damaging ball-tampering scandal, Paine was pleased with his team’s hard-nosed approach. Australia have won their last three Tests inside four days.
“I think certainly over the last 18 months there has been drastic improvement in this cricket team,” Paine told reporters. “We’re moving in the right direction and happy the way we’ve played the last three tests. We’re still improving and getting better.”
Even though the scoreline was lopsided, the series-opener was marked by aggressive short-pitched bowling on a Perth Stadium pitch that deteriorated amid fierce heat.
New Zealand’s quicks bowled a barrage of bouncers and set aggressive fields on the leg-side – somewhat reminiscent of tactics used by England and dubbed ‘Bodyline’ in the 1932-33 Ashes series to curb Australian great Sir Donald Bradman.
“We were just having a laugh when we were bowling at their tail that it’s going to be a bit of Bodyline for a lot of the series,” Paine said. “They’re very skilled at executing that (short) ball and they set great fields for it. So it’s a completely different challenge to what you get from other teams.”
Steve Smith, Australia’s best batsman, fell twice to short deliveries to continue a relatively barren recent run. Paine, however, commended his team’s batting depth and lauded their first innings when they scored a formidable 416 to setup the victory.
“At the end of the Ashes we needed other guys to stand up... (we) can’t be just reliant on Steve,” he said. “That’s what we are going to have to do to be one of the better teams in the world.”