SYDNEY (Reuters) - Tim Paine’s men did their utmost to avoid being the first Australia side to lose a test series to India on home soil but were outplayed in the key moments that might have swung matters in their favour, the 34-year-old said on Monday.
India wrapped up a 2-1 series victory, their first in 71 years of trying, after the fourth and final test petered out in a draw at a rain-drenched Sydney Cricket Ground on Monday.
Installed as captain in the wake of the ball-tampering scandal in South Africa last year, Paine has now overseen seven test matches and won just one — the Perth victory that tied up the series at 1-1.
Paine admitted his inexperienced side had been completely outplayed in the last two matches in Melbourne and Sydney but thought the series might have panned out differently had the Australians done better in the opener in Adelaide.
“We honestly feel that we let that test match slip,” he told reporters.
“We thought had a number of opportunities in that test to get ahead of the game, and when those key moments came up, India outplayed us.
“More often than not when those big moments came up, Virat (Kohli) scored a century or (Cheteshwar) Pujara scored one or (Jasprit) Bumrah bowled a great spell and got them through those moments.
“Their best players stood up in the big moments.”
Paine said the Australians, still without their best two batsmen because of the bans handed out to Steve Smith and David Warner for their part in the Newlands scandal, needed to emulate the Indians when they take on Sri Lanka in a two-test series.
“We can learn a lot from the way they went about it and we’ll make sure we do,” he said.
“We’ll have a week off and get ready for the Sri Lanka series. We’ve got faith that the guys around the team are the right guys.”
Paine said he had faith that senior batsmen Usman Khawaja and Shaun Marsh and the pace bowlers Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins would rediscover their best form after under-par series.
He thought that opener Marcus Harris and Travis Head, who probably got their chances because of the absence of Smith and Warner, had acquitted themselves well at test level.
Paine conceded, however, that not scoring a century between the batting unit over the entire series was a serious setback.
“Clearly, we know we’re not going to win too many any test matches without scoring hundreds,” he said.
“But when guys are in their third, fourth test matches, it’s hard. We had so many starts throughout this series, it’s just the experience of learning how to convert them.
“(And the Indian) attack was seriously good. I don’t think in Australia we’ve given them enough credit for how relentless they were. It was hard work batting even for seasoned test players.”
After a one-day series against India, Australia next take on Sri Lanka in Brisbane starting on Jan 24 followed by the second test in Canberra.
“We’re really disappointed,” Paine said. “We know we had some guys missing but we honestly felt coming into this series that, particularly in Australia, we could beat India.”
Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Amlan Chakraborty