Cricket

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PM's congratulatory text to skipper Paine

How good are Australians, how good is Steve Smith?

Some 536 days have passed since the Cape Town cheating scandal erupted and the turnaround has been immense in several senses, as reflected by the reaction of Prime Minister Scott Morrison and so many compatriots.

Malcolm Turnbull's rage about the sandpaper saga in a public critique plus a private call to David Peever, then Cricket Australia's chairman, started a year of hell for what was Smith's side but quickly became Paine's team.

It was arguably political point scoring but there is no debating fans were furious and demanded upheaval; Australians with only a fleeting interest in the sport were stunned and steaming.

Paine has worked hard to drive meaningful cultural change since, while turning around on-field form to a point where Australia retained the urn in England for the first time since 2001.

Cricket tragic John Howard famously suggested he had the second most important job in Australia, ranking below the Test skipper.

Mr Morrison, who has delivered sound bites as jingoistic as any of the tunes belted out by Australia's Ashes squad in celebration at Old Trafford, was moved to make contact with his 'superior'.

"My phone's gone berserk. I haven't got through them all yet. I got a text from the Prime Minister, which was very exciting," Paine told reporters in London.

"A first for me. I've got his number now... I'm going to save it and I might ring him if we win this one.

"He was pretty pumped.

"Along the same lines of messages we got from a lot of people back home in Australia - congratulations, everyone's proud of us, Steve Smith's a freak and make sure you finish it off this week."

There is yet to be a code-of-conduct charge in what is ordinarily cricket's most heated contest.

Smith's celebratory donning of a pair of spectacles, which Australia insist was in reference to Chris Rogers rather than Jack Leach, has been the touring squad's most offensive moment.

Smith and David Warner have exhibited great composure throughout a four-month stint in England - having arrived for the World Cup in May - despite regularly copping abuse and boos.

Australia have continued their drive to win supporters back in recent months.

Half an hour after being hit for the winning runs by Ben Stokes at Headingley, Pat Cummins was signing autographs and posing for selfies with fans.

--End of article--

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