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‘Way to go’: Paine lays down challenge to Test hopefuls

Australia has now gone six series without success overseas since the side led by Steve Smith defeated New Zealand at the start of 2016 to briefly claim the No.1 Test ranking.

While they boast arguably the world’s best player in Smith and a powerful attack led by the No.1-ranked Pat Cummins, there are many holes in the batting.

Captain Tim Paine has said Australia's Ashes-retaining team is far from the finished article and "have a way to go".

Captain Tim Paine has said Australia’s Ashes-retaining team is far from the finished article and “have a way to go”.Credit:AP Photo/Rui Vieira

By series end, three of Australia’s top six from the first Test had been turned over while David Warner and Marcus Harris finished hopelessly out of form.

Of the XI at The Oval, only Smith and Marnus Labuschagne, the find of the tour, averaged above 40 and can be confident of playing the first Test against Pakistan in two months’ time.

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Warner’s overall record should buy him credits while Matthew Wade may have saved his place with his fighting ton but Harris, the best batsmen at state level the past two years, and all-rounder Mitchell Marsh face uphill struggles to stay.

Runs in the first few weeks of the Shield season will be all important.

“If you are prepared to score the amount of runs that Matty Wade scored then opportunities will come, Marcus Harris is the same,” Paine said.

“Sheffield Shield has been the breeding ground for strong Australian sides. Performances in that get you picked in the Australian team. The stronger the Shield competition is the better for Australia.

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“It’s a great fillip for Wadey to do what he has done and all the work he has put in since coming back to Tasmania. It’s encouraging for Shield cricketers in Australia to take the next step.

“If you want to play in the top six for Australia you have to score 1200 runs like Marcus Harris or 1100 runs like Matt Wade. Six to 700 runs a year is not going to get you a Test spot.”

How quickly the next tier of batsmen come through the ranks will determine how long it takes for Australia to achieve their goal of becoming the best side in the world.

Smith is 30-years-old so should still have a few more years left though he hinted over the weekend he may not be around in four years’ time for Australia’s next Ashes tour.

“We can be proud of that but have a way to go. Steve had a great series and won a couple of Tests by himself but we’ve got a couple of parts that we need to improve.

“But if we can click them into gear when he is at the height of his powers and with the pace attack we have got in the next few years we are going to be a hard team to beat.”

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