“I probably haven’t had many worse days than that today.”
No-one would dispute Australia captain Tim Paine’s words after India pulled off a memorable draw in the third Test in Sydney to keep the series level at 1-1.
The tourists lost only three wickets on the final day as Ravichandran Ashwin – nursing a back injury – and Hanuma Vihari, who pulled a hamstring early in his innings, batted for the entire final session at the SCG.
That wasn’t the worst of it for Paine, who also dropped three catches and engaged in some futile sledging that drew criticism during and after the game.
With Australia’s hopes of victory fading late on the final day at the SCG, a frustrated Paine had a barbed exchange with Ashwin that was picked up by the stump microphone.
Paine: “We can’t wait to get you to the Gabba” – referring to the fourth and deciding Test in Brisbane, which starts on Friday.
Ashwin: “Just like we want to get you to India. It’ll be your last series.”
Paine: “At least my team-mates like me.”
The last remark – complete with expletive – wasn’t even new material from Paine, who used the same insult against Virat Kohli on India’s previous tour in 2018.
It wasn’t the best look, particularly given Paine had already dropped two catches and Ashwin has four Test centuries – four more than Paine.
In the next over, Paine shelled another chance, dropping Vihari off Mitchell Starc and, with it, Australia’s chances of taking a series lead.
Even when Paine did catch one, down the leg side off the first ball after tea, Ashwin – on seven at the time – overturned the decision as replays showed no glove involved.
Asked about sledging Ashwin, Paine – who was fined 15% of his match fee for showing dissent and swearing at umpire Paul Wilson on day three – said he “set a pretty poor example” and “needs to be better”.
India captain Ajinkya Rahane said he was not too concerned “as long as it stays on the field”, but India legend Sunil Gavaskar described the comments as “unwanted and unnecessary” on Channel 7 commentary.
As for his performance with the gloves, Paine said: “I’m bitterly disappointed. I pride myself on my wicketkeeping.
“It’s a horrible feeling knowing that our fast bowlers and our spinner bowled their hearts out and gave everything to the team.
“I certainly feel that I let them down and I’ve got to wear that. But I’m a big boy and I get another chance next week.”
Did Smith deliberately scuff the pitch up?
Paine’s sledging was not the only tactic Australia used to try to disrupt India on day five.
The stump camera picked up Steve Smith shadow batting on the crease during the afternoon session drinks break, before appearing to scuff up the batsmen’s guard – the marks used to guide where they stand – with his boots.
When Rishabh Pant, who made a sublime 97, returned to the crease he had to ask the umpire for his guard again. Was it a deliberate attempt to alter the surface or just one of Smith’s idiosyncrasies?
Former England captain Michael Vaughan said it was “very, very poor” from former captain Smith, who was banned for a year for his part in the ball-tampering scandal, while ex-India opener Virender Sehwag said it showed Australia had “tried all tricks”.
BBC Sport has contacted Cricket Australia for comment.
Matthew Wade was also particularly vocal while fielding at short leg, warning Ashwin “don’t end up with a broken rib” and mocking falling down injured after his Australia team-mates congratulated him for blocking a shot.
It may leave cricket fans wondering how much Australia’s culture has really changed since they promised not to cross the line – after sailing over it when they cheated in South Africa in 2018.
As Ashwin and Vihari shepherded India to 334-5 and secured an ultimately comfortable draw, one thing was beyond dispute: Australia’s sledging didn’t work.