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Paine to lead the jet-lagged and jaded

Cricket

Stand-in skipper Tim Paine has been asked to rally an Australian XI featuring jet-lagged batsmen and jaded bowlers ahead of the final Test against South Africa.

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The tourists will have a single training session together before the series finale starts in Johannesburg on Friday.

South Africa are in the box seat to record their first Test series win over Australia at home since the fall of apartheid, having taken a 2-1 lead in Cape Town.

The hosts enjoyed a record-breaking victory at Newlands, crushing the tourists by 322 runs to add indignity to ignominy.

The cheating scandal has created the most exceptional of times. The upcoming game has been an afterthought in recent days.

Training on Wednesday was cancelled. Players, who were grilled by Cricket Australia’s integrity chief Iain Roy over the ball-tampering bombshell, were told to clear their heads.

Thursday’s session will be the touring party’s only chance to have a net before taking on Faf du Plessis’ side at the Wanderers.

Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft have all been sent home in disgrace.

The absence of the world’s top-ranked Test batsman alone is a huge blow, with du Plessis noting it is “almost like losing two players”.

Queensland openers Matthew Renshaw and Joe Burns, who dashed to Brisbane airport after the Sheffield Shield final, and Glenn Maxwell have been flown in as replacements.

Peter Handscomb, who has been the reserve batsman in the squad throughout the tour, is expected to be recalled.

Australia will make at least three enforced changes and it could be more.

Mitchell Starc was clearly hampered by a sore calf during the third Test and the visitors may not want to take any risks with the spearhead.

Starc and other senior bowlers are incredibly disenchanted with the scandal that has rocked world cricket.

They were implicated in the illegal ploy by Smith, who erroneously referred to the “leadership group” in his confessional press conference rather than out his vice-captain David Warner.

Other innocent players are furious with the fact they’re now part of a team copping a nation-wide backlash, knowing how hard it will be to shake the stigma.

“I haven’t spoken to everyone in the team. I’ve spoken to a limited few, but I can only imagine (their attitude),” Cricket Australia boss James Sutherland said.

Paine, who has capped a stunning turnaround given he almost walked away from first-class cricket a year ago, apologised to the Australian public in Cape Town.

Sutherland hoped the Tasmanian gloveman could start Australia’s long road to redemption.

“We want Australian cricket fans to be proud of the Australian cricket team … it is important to rebuild that confidence and trust and pride,” he said.

– AAP

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